Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I'm Here...Just Under the Weather

Just a quick note to let everyone know I'm still here. I usually post daily, but over the weekend I picked up some type of bug. My poor little guy got it too, so we are two happy campers - LOL.

He's already feeling better today so I should be almost back to normal hopefully tomorrow, which is good because that means May 31 updates :)

Monday, May 29, 2006

May Monthly Debt Payments

Here's the May update on the minimum monthly debt payments.

Mortgage: $337
Auto Loan: $258
School Loans: $208
Credit Cards: $743

The grand total for May $1,546 / month. A decrease of over $200 from April!

Just a note, the auto loan will be paid off in September! Only a few months left to go on that one and that payment will be snowballed towards other debt payments as well :)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It Was Hard to do, But We Made a "Fun" Purchase

Part of the compromise with my husband was to spend some money on "fun" things this summer. I admit, I was so focused on eliminating debt that I soon forgot about having some fun. After we put them in our shopping cart, I told my husband to head for the check-out before I change my mind - LOL.

We bought one 2-Person inflatable kayak and one 1-person.

And let me tell you, we took them out today and had a blast!! My son keeps saying, "Thank you for the fun day." It was worth the purchase price to see the smile on his face as we were paddling across the lake.

I have a feeling we will get a great deal of use out of these kayaks and I know they were worth the money. And the best part of all - they were paid with cash!!

I hope everyone else is enjoying the weekend!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Few Points for those Thinking of Borrowing with Prosper

I have the ability to transfer $8,000 from Credit Card #2 to another card. Unfortunately, the balance transfer offer is only for 6 months but it is at a great rate (3.9%). That can work well if I just keep shifting the funds back and forth between cards to keep that balance at a low rate.

The problem is the remaining $11,000 balance on Credit Card #2. That will remain at 13.99% until the entire card is paid off. I am really considering trying Prosper to get a loan. I was thinking I would use the loan to play in the balance transfer game, but now I am just thinking of keeping it there and paying that loan off first (it probably will be the highest interest rate of all debt but less than 13.99%). Part of me is wondering if somehow I could get the loan funded around 7 or 8%.

I've been researching more things about Prosper and found answers to a few of my big questions that I'll share here:

1.) Will applying to be a borrower affect my credit score? Having inquiries on your credit score can lower it by a few points. With my score recently increasing, I would not like it to lower. But I have discovered that the credit report that Prosper pulls on you (to obtain your public credit rating) does not affect your score! It is initiated by you - so it does no damage to your FICO score.

2.) How much does it cost? The answer here is pretty simple. The cost of the loan is just 1% of the balance funded. With requesting $11,000 my fee would be $110. That $110 would be taken from the $11,000 funded so I actually would be getting $10,890 in my account.

3.) Is there a prepayment penalty? If you pay off your loan before the standard three-year term, you will not be penalized. That is a major plus and that point should always be looked into for any loan obtained.

I did end up registering and I was approved right away to list a loan. I'm still looking into finding a group to join, and still reading lots of literature. And, of course, I still I have to make sure that I want to do this. Part of me is wondering if this is the break that I am looking for so I can get rid of the high interest balance on Credit Card #2.

As usual, what it will boil down to is learning as much as I can and then listening to my gut.

I'll keep everyone updated :)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Calling Them Finally Worked!!

I can't believe it! I called credit card #2 and they actually reduced my interest rate! I sit here amazed. I've called them before and they wouldn't budge. Perhaps they are noticing that I am very agressively paying off their card and decided they better do something.

They reduced the interest rate from 16.99% to 13.99% and my account was technically upgraded to a "new" card to get the new interest rate. It's not a huge decrease - but it's something and I won't complain. Every little bit helps when you are in my situation.

Next step - figuring out my gameplan on how to play the balance transfer game so I can get the rates even lower ;)

A Few Updates from the Night Owl

It's past my bedtime, but I thought I'd mention a few things while they are on my mind.

I haven't posted as much as I would have liked to this week. I guess I just have been a little bummed about having to use my credit card to buy groceries.

But I am happy to report that just a few minutes ago I paid the amount back that I spent and I also sent some extra money to another credit card. Total debt as of this moment - $31,429. This time I made sure I left enough "fun" money in the account to stick to the compromise made with my husband ;)

I also wanted to warn everyone that there may be another make-over shortly. Although I like this template, the small width of my posts is making it difficult to post screenshots. I still owe a post about tracking cash in Quicken, but now I am having troubles getting the screen shots to post so you can read them. I am hoping to finalize the new one this weekend.

As always, thanks for your patience and thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New FICO Score Arrived!

This morning I received a dreaded "alert" from my identity protector program, but it ended up being a very good thing.

My new FICO score was ready, and there was an increase from 711 to 732!

They still quote the same negative factors on my score: the high amount of credit being used and the length of my credit history (relatively short in their eyes). But the balances dwindling on the credit cards has helped to raise the score.

My advice to anyone looking to raise their credit score or to keep it fairly high is to not miss any payments. Being current on accounts has definitely helped me. For an article on what late payments can do to your score, check out this article from Credit Bloggers, which I heard about from Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Makings of a FICO Score

Even with all of my debt, my FICO score is 711 and that is considered a good score. According to some literature, I should be able to get a loan with no problem but as soon as lenders see my debt to income ratio (52% - the desirable is less than 15%) I think they head for the hills.

How could it be that my score is so high given all of my credit card debt and other debt?

It all boils down to how the FICO score is calculated (as found at

35% - payment history
30% - amounts owed
15% - length of credit history
10% - new credit
10% - types of credit in use

One thing that has always been a top priority is to try to make sure all payments to debt have been paid on time. There are no late payments showing on my credit report. That right there is 35% of my score and I believe it's the best thing I could have done considering my debt situation. Without that, I'm sure my score would be quite low.

One negative that I always seem to have on my FICO score reports is the fact that most of my credit cards were maxed out. That feels good, I can say were maxed out now :)

With the identity protector program I am on, I will be issued a new FICO score late this month. I am actually looking forward to seeing how much it may raise with the lower balances on my credit cards. I say "may" because you never know, I have found my FICO scores to jump all around in the past (from 706 to 726). I will be a little disappointed if it doesn't raise just a little bit.

UPDATE: My new FICO score has arrived :)

Money, Marriage and Compromising

My husband and I get along fairly well, except for one little thing. We often do not communicate clearly with each other. He knows that I am really trying to pay down debt (I take care of all of the finances), but I didn't make it really clear to him how aggressive I was being. And when I say aggressive, I mean that I am often leaving only a few dollars in our checking account. That action is what led to using the credit card this past weekend.

We did get in a little bit of an argument because my husband does not understand how we can be making more money but still be broke. My reasoning is that I'd rather be broke for a little bit longer now and pay as much as possible to the credit cards. Once they are paid off - they will be money for other things. He would like to use some of the money now to have fun and purchase things we could not purchase before.

And that is where compromise comes in. We still haven't finished discussing all of the details, but part of our resolution is that my husband is not going to quit his job at the moment. He is, however, switching his hours so he will have time to work on his business as well as have the same days off as me (which we haven't had in ages). We are also going to use some of his earnings for "fun" things this summer.

Just like most things, a marriage can be a lot of work. But the compromise thing can help a lot ;)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two Carnivials and a Festival

My favorite time to get some reading in is at the beginning of the week because of the great carnivals and festivals. Here are the ones that I participated in this week:

Carnival of Personal Finance #49 at Frugal for Life.

Carnival of Debt Reduction #36 at Make Love, Not Debt.

Festival of Frugality #24 at Tired but Happy.

And here are the posts that I submitted:

Could Prosper Help Someone Like Me?
What Hit Me Like a Brick Yesterday
Saving Gas and It's Good for Your Too!

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Saving Gas and It's Good for You Too!

When we purchased our first home, we made a big decision. No gas powered mower. I think most of our neighbors give a chuckle when they see us see us mowing our decent-sized yard with our reel mower, but that's okay.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

1.) My son can mow with his little toy mower basically right next to me. I don't have to worry about things shooting out at blazingly fast speeds and hurting someone. Also, when I stop, the mower blades stop. I love our mower for the safety aspect of it.

2.) We don't have to worry about purchasing gas which is really handy right now with the higher gas prices. It's funny how a decision made almost three years ago is really helping to save money right now.

3.) You get some great exercise. All you have to do is walk the mower around your yard and you get some exercise as well as a nice looking lawn.

4.) It's quiet! Although not completely silent, it is quiet compared to a gas-powered mower. We can easily mow or lawn during times that would usually be off-limits for a gas-powered mower.

Not only was our mower very nicely priced ($80), it has been an excellent addition to our simple life. If you have never tried one, give it a spin. You just might like it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Good News...and Bad News...

Yesterday I received some great news in the mail. My Escrow Disclosure Statement for my mortgage indicated that starting July 1 our mortgage payment would now be $323 instead of $337. That extra $14/month may not seem like much but I am a believer that every little bit counts when it comes to paying down your debt.

Now the bad news...

My frugal glasses took a major blow and are damaged beyond repair. Right now my damaged lenses are in a pair of very ill fitting frames just so I can see to function. I can't wear these ones out of the house. I do have some older pairs of contacts that I have kept for occasions such as this, so will bring them out of retirement and wear them when I need to. Come Monday morning I will be making an appointment for an eye exam and paying the money for a new pair of glasses.

I guess in a way I feel defeated that my frugal glasses didn't last longer. But really, they've lasted me a year and it was during a time where I would have to put the cost on a credit card. This time around, I will have the cash to get them. It's the extra cash that would be going to the credit cards to keep with my debt reduction plan, but I have to remember that there will be some bumps along the way to becoming debt-free. You just have to keep your head up and keep chugging along :)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Can Your Type of Father Predict Your Job Success?

I saw an article on Yahoo about how your father can affect your job success. First thing I thought was, yeah...right. But then I read it. Now I'm thinking there's something to be learned about it. It nailed one of my special skills right on the button for the type of father I have.

The book referenced in the article will be coming out next month. I must say it has stirred my curiousity so I think I will have to check it out.

More Thoughts on Funding A Child's College Education in Full

I recently explained why I will not pay for my son's education in full. I received some great comments, and I felt I had enough to say to warrant another post on the topic.

I by no means am saying that every child who gets a free-ride to college will screw it up like I did. I have known some students who excelled and didn't have to pay a dime for their education. And just so everyone knows, I had great parents. After all, I did well in high school. They did something right.

I've reflected back on my life often, and tried to decide what made me lose it when I went to college. I feel a big part of it was that I didn't want it enough and I didn't have to work for it.

I didn't mention it in the other post, but I had NO CLUE what I wanted to do with my life when I was 18. I applied to three different colleges and for each one a different major (criminal justice, music and mechanical engineering - if that isn't a smorgasboard of majors - tell me what is! - LOL). The decided factor was whatever college gave me the best financial package and that's where I would go and what degree I would pursue. I hope my son has more drive than I did 11 years ago.

There also was a great comment from someone who didn't have any help at all, but had the desire to go to college. It adds another view to the story worth reading about.

In the end, as parents we just have to do what we feel is right for our child. And I think one of the most important things to do is to support them in what they do. When you at least have a cheering section behind you - that can make a big difference as I sort of mentioned with my answer on whether I have support from my family.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I'm Getting Spooked Now....

I'm not a very suspicious person, but there have been two coincidences with my blog and it's just spooky.

Let me explain. First of all, remember how I raved about my Toyota Echo? After posting, the check engine light came on.

Okay, one coincidence.

But there's another too....

Just two days ago, I posted a breakdown of where my money goes. I commented on how great it is that money is no longer being spent on diapers. Low and behold - my son started having accidents yesterday.

I'm not even going to write again what I wrote about yesterday. But I'll say one thing - guess what I am going to finalize shopping for after work tonight....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sometimes, You Just See Someone Doing Something That Makes You Smile

Nick over at Punny Money is known for putting the "fun" back in "funancial." But what he's doing over there starting tomorrow is pretty darn cool.

He's running a 24-hour blog marathon and donating his blog revenue from the marathon to a worthy cause. Check it out! And make sure you participate and show some love :)

Bad Money Decision Confession Time #3

Over at It's Just Money the question was brought up on whether you have a will or not.

I bet by the title of my post you already know my answer. I don't have one. I don't have life insurance either (but my husband has a small policy on him thanks to his parents long ago).

Both things I better get cracking on and get done. I think the biggest reason I have dragged my feet was because of the mortality issue. I hate thinking about death in all regards. I'm not done with what I have to do here on Earth just yet. But if the unthinkable happens, I don't want my husband and son drowning in debt.

That leads to the next dilemma. How much life insurance to get?

I don't want to go too high, because costs need to be kept low at the moment. I think $100,000 policies (at least) should be taken out on each of us so at least the other spouse can try to get their life back together with no debt.

Gosh, this is so depressing to even think about. But I guess it's a fact of life that has to be done. I don't want my son paying for mistakes that I made if I have the ability to avoid them. And I don't want the court deciding who should raise him.

With that said - writing up a will and shopping for life insurance is my goal for the next week. This is too important of a matter to let keep sliding by. A thanks to It's Just Money for bringing the topic up.

Festival of Frugality #22 is Up!

Caitlin at Clutter2Cash is the host this week for the 22nd Festival of Frugality. If you haven't already, make sure you check out the great articles.

Thanks Caitlin for hosting :)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

As Promised - Here's Where My Money Goes

As promised over the weekend, I'm baring a little bit more and here's where my money goes.

There are a few things to keep in mind while looking at the chart. The things in blue are spots that concern me. The things in purple I have comments about.

Without further's where my money goes.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The first thing that grabs my attention is the $55 that was spent for fuel in April. We didn't really travel much more than normal. I am inclined to wonder if it is related to the problem with my car – which ended up being just the gas cap not tightened properly (doh!). Or, it could just be how the fill-ups were timed (there are two fill-ups there). I will be curious to see the numbers for May.

Of course, I have to scold myself for the money spent on cigarettes. Although I roll my own and save a bundle there – it’s still no excuse. I am working on pumping myself up to become smoke-free as well as debt-free.

Clothing I wanted to point out because there was above average spending in February. Something that I do is stock up on clothing after season. I buy lots of hats, gloves, snowpants, etc. when they are cheap on clearance. Where I live – it's pretty darn cold and snowy in the winter so these are necessities.

Diapers – just wanted to point out the big ZERO for April. Why the change? My son is potty-trained – WOOHOO!!! A big financial gain there :)

Dining, oh dining. I'm not happy with the numbers here. It's not like we go to fancy places, so we do get more bang for our buck. April's spending was from going out to eat 6 times. But really I would like to see that number around $80. That is a generous estimate for eating out once a week as a treat.

Entertainment had a large jump in March. In pursuit of quality family time and things for us to do, we took a trip to Walmart to purchase board games for the family. In total, there were 7 games purchased. Notice the big zero for April? Well, funny story behind that – there is a looming late fee at the video store of 99 cents. I guess we just don't want to face the music and have stayed away – LOL.

Ah, the finance charges - the cost of my credit cards. I look forward to that amount shrinking instead of going up. The big increase for April is partly due to timing with balance transfers. There's also the fact that I transferred a balance from the wrong account and instead of paying 0% I am now paying 5.9%. A costly mistake I am sure not to make again.

You have to eat, but for a family of three – the grocery spending is way too high. A lot of it has to do with the family's pop habit. There has also been many things purchased that were considered "treats" with the increase in income in January. A decision has already been made to go grocery shopping twice a month and at the cheapest store in the area (cough – Walmart) and stock up with spending around $100 a trip. Then, purchase some things we may run out on a weekly basis (bread, milk, eggs, etc) at the local grocery store. I'll also check out the weekly ads for the local grocery stores to look for good specials. This has to be toned down.

I bet everyone noticed that large household expense in March. That was due to getting a much-needed stove and purchasing new pots and pans to use with the stove. We also purchased two sets of dishes for $8/each and two new sets of silverware at $5/each as a mood-booster. We really didn't need them, but it is a treat to have matching dishes and silverware and the price was right. As for the normal expenses in the household category, they include disposable items (toilet paper and paper towel) as well as cleaners, air fresheners, stamps, etc. If there is interest, I can post a breakdown of the categories because I condensed it down so I could take a screen shot of the report. You all may think I'm crazy with how detailed I keep my household category (around 20 sub-categories). But, if you are interested I will post it.

Another category that would be wonderful to get rid of is Interest Expense. That's the interest that is being paid on the school loans, the auto loan and the mortgage. I will live with those numbers for now, but they are going to be attacked once the credit cards are paid off ;)

I am very upset with that late fee in March. That's when I paid that credit card late by one day. It did fuel my motivation and I ended up showing that card a thing or two and paid it off ;)

I have been trying to get my electric bill down and we have been trying to reduce it to no avail. I think I know what the problem is. We have an older freezer down in the basement. We really don't use it for much and we probably could get a smaller one that uses less energy. I think I am going to talk the hubby into letting me unplug it for a month and see what happens. I really would like to see this bill no higher than $60/month.

I wanted to point out the gas bill because I am proud of the numbers here. Even though we have a 100 year-old home, we were fortunate enough to find one that is well-insulated (blown-in) and one that keeps the main room of the home relatively warm. This winter we kept the thermostat around 62 degrees during the day and around 56 at night. My goal before next winter is to install a programmable thermostat because a few nights I would forget to turn down the heat.

Ok. You've gotten this far so you must be interested in the above. So I will let you in on something. There are 4 categories missing, but their amounts are included in the Total Expenses. These categories have to do with taxes and such and I guess I do not feel comfortable having those out there for all to see. I hope everyone understands about that.

Now, if you have any questions or comments – feel free to leave them below. Or, if you'd like to ask me a question in private, feel free to email me. I do not use emails as post topics (unless given permission to do so) – so anything you say will just be between you and I. I'd like this to be a learning experience for all.

Now I'm all excited to see what May will bring :)
Post included in the 48th week of the Carnival of Personal Finance over at 2million.

$1,775 Extra Paid to Credit Card #2 - Woohoo!

Thanks to the loan from the in-laws that turned into a gift last week - Credit Card #2 has received an extra $1,775 and the balance is now under $20,000!

When I originally set the goal date for the credit cards to be paid off, I was including that big payment. When I was reminded about that loan I was a little concerned about being able to meet the goal date.

I am feeling much better about things now that the money was able to go to Credit Card #2 as originally planned. Now, I just have to keep up the $1050/month payments to all of the cards to keep with my debt reduction schedule. It will be rough - but I think it can be done.

Thanking My Lucky Stars I am a Low-Maintenance Gal

I've been reading some personal finance blogs, and I realized something. I am so glad that I am low-maintenance because I don't think I could live the way I am living if I wasn't. Whoever decided I was to grow up as a Tomboy - I thank you.

If you want some brutal honesty - I work at home and seriously I work in my pajamas. My hair is pulled back in a ponytail and I just go to work in my office. I don't change all day unless I have to leave my house. No make-up, nothing. I do smoke outside because I hate smoking indoors (which is good for the whole family) and I go out there in my pajamas. I don't think my neighbors care.

Now, when I have to leave the house I get on "normal" clothes, brush my hair and sometimes depending on if my hair looks decent or not I will put on a hat. I basically forgo make-up except if I'm feeling a little feisty and I put on some mascara. But that's rare. For my nails, I make sure they are clean underneath and that's about it. I cut them when they get too long to type decently. I've never had a manicure in my life and I doubt I ever will.

As for some other things, I don't wear perfume. I do have one bottle, but it was my grandmothers and it's kept for sentimental reasons. I do like to buy the smelly Suave shampoos though. Those make you smell nice for a day or so, especially the strawberries and cream.

Speaking of hair, haircuts are few and far inbetween. I have the same darn haircut since high school and it's a long hairdo and it's not too hard to cut yourself then have someone help you straighten the cut. So, that works for me. Sometimes I wonder if I should go for a change, but I like my hair the way it is. I just wash and go. Easy and cheap.

So, now when I post later today where exactly my money goes you won't think I am a complete dirty mess when I reveal how much I spend on grooming :P

Monday, May 08, 2006

If You Wait Until You Can Afford One - You'll Never Have One

That title was a piece of advice I received some 6 years ago. I wanted a child, but I felt that things would be too difficult with my husband still in college and we both were working near minimum wage jobs.

While at work at the grocery store, I was asked by a co-worker why I don't have any kids yet (I had been married for a few years at this point). I just replied that I don't have enough money to have a baby just yet. She just said, "If you wait until you can afford one - you'll never have one."

You know what? She was right and it made perfect sense to me. Much of our lives are spent getting to some point that we feel we are financially secure (and that point varies by person). There comes a point where you have to remember to live life at the present and not just live life for the future. After all, none of us really knows how long we will be here on this earth. Might as well make the best of the time we have here.

It probably wasn't but a few months after that before I became pregnant. Although I was scared out of my mind on how we would afford diapers, formula, etc. - it all went away when I held my son for the first time. Do I regret not waiting until we had better jobs? No way.

No amount of money could ever compare to the first time your child gazes into your eyes.

And if you are wondering - I think it is nearing the right time to try to add another member to our family. My clock is ticking :)

The Carnival of Personal Finance #47 is Up!

Come one, come all - to check out the Carnival of Personal Finance #47 at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. A nice surprise is over there too - so make sure you check it out.

Thanks to Jim for hosting this week! :)

The Carnival of Debt Reduction #34 is Up!

Dawn at Frgual for Life is hosting this week's Carnival of Debt Reduction. Make sure you check it out ;)

Thanks Dawn for hosting :)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An All You Can Eat Buffet - Not All That You Can Waste

Ever since I was little, my parents had me clean my plate. Then, and only then, could I get more food. As an adult, I'm still the same way. I can't see wasting food.

But what about when you are at an "all you can eat" restaurant? Do you eat everything on your plate?

If you don't - you might want to think again because you may not be welcome to come back. A restaurant in Iowa recently said that to a family that was too wasteful with their food.

Read the full story here on Yahoo

Saving Money on Gas at First Fuel Banks

There's a story that tells of folks who purchased gasoline (for future use) years ago at lower rates from First Fuel Banks. So now they get to fill up their vehicles for less than the current prices.

I've heard of people doing this for heating oil - paying in advance for a season and locking in the rate.

But for gasoline? This is the first I've heard of this and it is an interesting read.

Read the full story at Yahoo

Why My Son Will Not Have His College Education Paid in Full

This has been sort of a hot topic, so I am going to share my thoughts on it from my experience.

I was fortunate enough to be at the top of my graduating class and as a result I received a full tuition scholarship to a great college. My parents were generous enough to pay for my room and board. So here I was going to college and didn't have to worry about anything except for some discretionary spending money.

It didn't take me long to start screwing everything up.

Drinking, drugs, partying – you name it I probably was doing it. It's an area of my life that I am not particularly proud of because I basically lost some valuable months of my life. I am also lucky that I didn't die or have something horrible happen to me because I was just asking for it by my actions.

I probably don't have to say it, but my grades were horrible. A 1.9 GPA my first quarter and a 0.75 GPA my second quarter. I was on "academic probation." Then I received a letter stating that one more time on probation and I would lose my scholarship and be kicked out of college. At the same time, my mom and dad couldn't afford to pay more room & board (unrelated to my grades because I tried to keep that hidden from them). Everything I was relying on to be able to party and have fun was being taken away from me.

Long story short - I did end up getting my act together and I didn't get kicked out of school. I don't want to make it sound like every kid that gets his or her college education paid in full is going to screw things up. My point is that with my experience - I took advantage of the situation and didn't appreciate what I had in front of me. I wasn't paying my way so it didn't mean as much.

I want the best for my son when he's old enough to go to college (if he wants to). I think a valuable life lesson is learned when you contribute to something that you want to do instead of having it given to you. It means more and you value it more. I want my son to have a good life, but he has to want it and be willing to work hard for it.

Mom and Dad will definitely help, but he will need to do his part with paying for college. I think he will be an overall better person for having to do so.

Post included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction #47 at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

How a Horse is Inspiring Me to Reduce My Debt

Yeah, that's sort of a weird title, but it's true. I tend to look for sources of inspiration everywhere in my life and I try to remember them in my head. The great thing about this blog is now I can write them down because I tend to be forgetful :)

I was fortunate enough to catch the movie "Seabiscuit" on ABC last night. I have previously watched this movie and enjoyed it – but now since I have the goal of becoming debt-free it holds even more meaning for me.

In a nutshell, the movie is about a horse named Seabiscuit that no one imagined could be a race horse. With work and determination (in regards to the horse and everyone involved with the horse) he was soon winning races. This non-traditional race horse also had a non-traditional jockey named Johnny "Red" Pollard played beautifully by Tobey Maguire.

I don’t want to give the whole story away, but I want to mention one thing that Red said to another jockey when discussing Seabiscuit. It's something that hit close to home with me with my goal of debt-reduction. Unfortunately, I didn't write it down, so this is not word for word. But, the meaning is there.

Red told another jockey that Seabiscuit knows what he wants and he wants to achieve it when it comes to winning a race. He has the heart (motioning his hand to his chest) to make it happen.

Even though Seabiscuit is a horse and his goal is to win a race, his experience can easily relate to the goal of becoming debt-free:

Do you have the heart to make it happen to become debt-free? Do you have the desire to achieve your goal? Are you willing to do what it takes to defy the odds to make your goal of reducing your debt happen?

My answer – YES!!!

If you cannot answer those questions with a resounding “YES” then I suggest renting Seabiscuit when you get the chance. I think the motivation obtained from this movie is well worth the few dollars it takes to rent it (it's an older release).

Always look around for sources of inspiration even in odd places. When you find them – hold them close to your heart and remember them. Make your goal happen :)
Post included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction #34 at Frugal for Life.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Deal or No Deal Disappointment

I watched Deal or No Deal tonight, and I saw greed get the best of the contestant. She had the option of taking home $299,000 - but she kept going. She ended up going home with $25,000.

This show fascinates me and it's interesting to watch how far people are willing to go. So, I figured I would go to the website and see how one could apply to get on the show.

They have a lengthy application and I was reading through it. The questions seemed fine enough but then I got down to the "fine print". Under contestant selection, it states that you must fill out the application AND attend one or more audition/interview sessions. Ouch. I live in the middle of nowhere and a trip to a major city would cost big bucks. It's a shame that so many are excluded from applying right off the bat because I know of a few people in my area that would be a hoot on the show.

Oh well. It's not meant to be, and they wouldn't want me anyways. The minute I got enough to pay off all my debt I would deal and I wouldn't make for good TV. Even if I had all the large amounts remaining.

Well, enough of that - I see that I can enter (for free) to name Carla and Turks's baby on the TV show Scrubs and I am so gonna go for it :)

What's Coming Up Next Week...

I don't have anything to write at the moment - I've been a little strapped for time. But, there is no lack of things to post in my mind, so I thought I would give everyone some things to look forward to next week (or this weekend if time permits).

I will be giving a tip on how to track cash spending in Quicken. Cash spending is so easy to lose track of and to really get a good picture of where your money is going you need a system in place. If you already use Quicken, tune in for a tip complete with screenshots.

I also want to discuss why I don't believe parents should pay for their children's college education in full. My view comes straight from my experience and I am not going to "sugar coat" it. Mom - don't read my entries next week :)

The last "teaser" I'll write for now is that I will be revealing where exactly my money goes. Not everyone will be interested in knowing about that - but I feel it could bring up some great discussions on how I cut costs and how others do too. So, if you are interested in taking a look - tune in.

Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Frugal Tip for Broken Eyeglasses

Over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, he mentioned that his wife's eyeglasses suffered a blow from a kickball game and broke her eyeglasses in two. So, I thought I would share a frugal tip with everyone.

The last time I had an eye exam, I just bought new lenses for my frames. My frames were still in good shape, so I figured, why not? I loved the style and it will save some money.

Wouldn't you know it - the frames broke right on the side of the bridge a few months later. The frames are titanium, and no one could sauder them back together. (NOTE ADDED 5/6/05 - someone left a great comment on this post mentioning that some titanium frames have a lifetime warranty. So, make sure you take your glasses back to where you purchased them from and ask. And next time you shop for glasses, make sure that you ask about any warranties - they could save you some money down the road)

As I wondered what to do, because at the time I was not working and income was super tight - I had an idea. What about using a pair of sunglasses? It turned out that I had an old pair that looked like they would almost work. So I got out a pair of pliers and started shaping the sunglasses in the shape of my lenses. I placed the lenses in, and voila - I had glasses again.

To the naked eye, you can't tell they are sunglasses. They are actually quite stylish too. Just a note - this method works best with frames that only use a plastic wire for the bottom. Then you only have to shape the top of the frames :)

Total Savings - over $100.

Image hosting by Photobucket

My frugal glasses on the left, my broken glasses on the right.

Yes, I am so frugal I kept the broken pair :)

Credit Card Debt as of 4/30/06: $34,070

Since I've started blogging in February, my credit card debt has been reduced by $3,544 (the credit card report has been updated as well in my progress to date). Thanks everyone for helping to keep me motivated!! I am seeing a change in my debt situation and I like it :)

Things were made even better yesterday when my husband's mom called. She just got the $1,775 check in the mail for the loan they gave us when we purchased our home. I guess she really didn't need the money and she said she wrote all over the check voiding it and will be sending it back. I guess her bringing up the loan didn't mean they needed it. We were also told it was officially a gift.

If you happened to stop by late last night you would have noticed that my net worth actually increased even further to $-50,240. I went in and updated the numbers. I'm only $240 away from reaching the $-50,000 mark. Woohoo!

Overall, April was a great month and May is off to a great start as well. My tax returns have been a great "booster" to paying down some debt. Going forward, it's all going to be about cutting costs, being frugal and living simple. I have to devote a large chunk of my income to debt if I want to reach my goal. I also may be looking into ways to consolidating my debt to obtain lower interest rates.

Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mechanic Update and a Lesson Learned

After thinking it over, our car went back to our regular mechanic to get it diagnosed and fixed. It went in at 10am and my tummy has been upset ever since. After fearing the worst for hours, I heard from his shop around 5pm and are you ready for how much it cost? You really ready?

$59.00 (includes an oil change)

The diagnosis?

I can't even believe I am going to admit this - but...the gas cap wasn't tight enough. Yup, that's what caused my check engine light to come on.

Lesson learned - make sure you tighten your gas cap!! :)

Net Worth as of 4/30/06: $-52,015

NOTE: Since originally publishing this post, I had to update my net worth. Something I thought was a loan (and I paid) ended up being a gift. For the new net worth as of 4/30/06, please see my post here. Thanks :)


Wow, April was a great month and my Net Worth increased to $-52,015. Most of that is due to my tax refunds and using it all towards debt. It is getting so close to being only 50 grand in the hole. I love that little graphic from It is such a "mood-booster" seeing that line shoot up.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I had a sizable loan reappear that I had forgotten about. I'd be lieing if I said I wasn't a little bummed about that. I really was looking forward to paying off more of my debt with that money. But, now all personal loans from family have been paid off and all concentration will be on the credit cards.

I did have my reports ready a few days ago to update in My Progress to Date post but then that family loan reappeared. I am hoping to get new reports ready this evening. Stay tuned :)

I've Joined the No Credit Needed Network

I believe a big part of keeping motivated to become debt-free is to find others in similar situations and to stick together and support each other. It turns out, there is a great website out there offering such a place and I have recently joined the No Credit Needed Network.

Come on over and check it out. Some are fighting debt, others are keeping track of their savings and a few are even tracking their progress with losing weight (as Mighty Bargain Hunter pointed out - losing debt is a lot like losing weight).

A thanks to everyone at the NCN Network for welcoming me over there :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Have You Checked Out the Festival of Frugality Yet?

The Festival of Frugality is up at Wandering Indian Monk. If you haven't yet - go check it out. I double dog dare you :)

Thanks to Wandering Indian Monk for hosting this week!
Tags: festival+frugality, frugal

Twelve Frugal Wedding Tips from My Wedding

My outdoor wedding was pretty frugal and very simple. But - it did not lack beauty. It only cost about $2,000 with $1,000 of it spent my ring and dress (the most expensive parts of the whole day). Here's some things that I did that may help some of you out there considering a simple outdoor wedding.

1.) Have the wedding and/or reception in a park. We had our wedding and reception at a state park. We rented one of the pavillions for the entire day for a mere $30.

2.) Make your own wedding invitations. We purchased paper from a local office supply store and printed our own invitations. I addressed the envelopes with calligraphy to add a touch of elegance. The envelopes were sealed with stickers that went along with what we were giving out as favors as a touch of fun. Overall, the ability to design the invitations ourself added to the personal touch we wanted for the wedding.

3.) Hire a friend as a DJ. I think most of us have a friend that is a "wanna-be" or is a DJ. Let them do your wedding and save the cost of paying a professional.

4.) Rent chairs from a local college - not a rental or wedding rental place. As soon as you put the word "wedding" on something, the price goes up. See if your local college has fold-up chairs for rent. Our chairs cost around $30 for the day.

5.) Get creative for the cake topper. I couldn't find a cake topper that fit my nature theme of the wedding, so I made one with none other than a Chia Tree!! (turn down the volume if you check out the link) I just used the tree, gave it a coat of paint, added two little doves purchased from a craft store and glued them on top. Add some ribbon in the wedding colors, and voila - a nice looking cake topper. And no one knew it was a Chia Tree ;)

6.) Make your own wedding cake. Going with the nature theme of our wedding, my dad cut blocks of a tree in varying heights and I used those to place the cake layers on. For decorating the cake, I used a simple lacework technique that anyone can do because it is a sporadic type of decoration. It also hides any imperfections well if you have the lacework closer together or create multiple layers of lacework.

7.) Have a dry reception (or an almost dry one). Our reception was completely alcohol-free. As a result, a lot of money was saved. Sure, there may have been some guests that missed the alcohol, but we did not drink and we knew that some of our guests could not hold their alcohol well. The great thing is that it is your wedding and you can make the decisions.

8.) Make your own favors. I like to paint when I have the time, so I painted favors to give away to guests. I found little semi-clear bags with leaves on them from a dollar store to put the painted favors in.

9.) Skip a professional photographer. We had two designated amateur photographers (family members) document our wedding. They loved the idea of being the photographers and we ended up with some really great photos. With two of them working hard to capture the moment, they often caught different angles of the same thing occuring. We also included disposable cameras at the picnic tables to capture even more angles.

10.) Have cold cuts for the reception. Our wedding was during the hottest part of the summer and outdoors so we didn't want real hot food. We decided on cold cuts and just made sure they were rolled up nicely and the cheese was cut in a fancy way. Presentation is key, and that just takes some time to do (not money).

11.) Borrow what you can. I worked in a cafeteria at the time and I asked if I could borrow some pans for holding food and ice. If you know of someone with something that would work for your wedding, ask. The worst they could say is no. Just make sure you return things in great shape.

12.) Buy food in bulk. If you know of someone in the restaurant or food service business, ask if they can order certain things for you through their distributor and let you purchase the product at their cost. That way, you save some money even above what you could purchase bulk items for from places like Sam's Club.

Wow, writing all that makes me feel like planning another frugal wedding :)
Tags: frugal, wedding

Monday, May 01, 2006

Need Study Aids to Teach Little Ones About Money?

I came across a neat site that has a collection of printouts (coloring, matching, adding & subtracting, etc.) to help children learn about money. There is a section for coins as well as the one dollar bill.
Tags: learn, money

Frugal Tips, Time Management - This Housecleaning e-Book has it All

Right now in my life I have so much work and projects going on that I don't have much time to clean. Luckily, my husband has been helping, our our house could be considered a disaster area.

It's not that I like my house a mess, I just I have so many other things to do with my time and most of them produce needed income. My lack of time was the appeal when I was contacted to review the e-book, "The Happy Slob's Guide to Housecleaning."

The author, Christina Spence, is very candid and very funny with how she presents the task of housecleaning. The tone is just great, and while the e-book discussed housecleaning, it almost made me get up from my chair, forget about the work, and clean!

Christina developed a 3-Step Solution that she describes in detail in her book and it really works. It takes the sometimes daunting task of housecleaning and breaks it down into simpler tasks. How ingenious! And with the tone of the book, "a lived in look is fine, since you do live in your home, right? I thought so," this author isn't cracking a whip telling you that your house has to be spotless. She understands that life happens and if you can't get to something today, you can get to it another day.

An extra bonus with the book that I was not expecting was the information on how to make your own cleaners. For the frugal-minded like myself, it was a treat! Now I know how to make my own disenfectant, window cleaner and more.

If you are looking for a way to simplify your housecleaning routine, make your own cleaners or just looking for a laugh I would definitely check out this eBook. It's a book that was a joy to read and I learned a lot of great things. Maybe it could help some of you out there too. Just so everyone knows, this is a straight book review and I am in no way affiliated with the author.

You can find out more about this book and being a "Happy Slob" at Christina also has a "Happy Slob" blog at
Tags: cleaning, housecleaning

Carnival of Personal Finance #46 is Up!

Hey! It's carnival time again, and the Carnival of Personal Finance is loaded with goodies to read. Go check it out at Consumerism Commentary.

A thank you to Flexo for hosting this week :)
Technorati Tags: carnival, personal+finance

Carnival of Debt Reduction #33 is Up!

If you are trying to reduce your debt be sure to check out the Carnival of Debt Reduction this week at Free Money Finance.

A thanks to FMF for hosting this week! :)
Tags: carnival, debt, debt+reduction