Paying Down Debt – April 2016

I am going to be blunt.

APRIL SUCKED. 

Even though Randy and I still worked our butts off, not one extra dime was able to go toward our debt {other than what we already budget from our salaries}.

Because life.

Here are just a few things that life threw at us this past month:

  • We unexpectedly owed on our taxes {when we expected a return}. Blah.
  • Our “tax guy” who we’ve used for the past eight years charged us almost double what we’ve paid in the past without warning {he unfortunately lost a  loyal customer . . . I’m not about that kind of inflation}.
  • Even though we usually budget well for all the everythings in life, I did not do a good job of budgeting for our upcoming summer expenses—summer camps for the kids, a family reunion, swimming lessons, etc. It’s a lot and most of it had to be paid right then.
  • We had to pay the tags and taxes for our vehicles {I usually use our tax returns to pay for this  . . . but that didn’t happen}.
  • Randy’s painting crew was supposed to be finished with a large job four weeks ago, and they STILL ARE NOT DONE!!!
  • I had a fairly slow month with my Bondbons business.
  • Randy dropped his brand new cell phone in a cup of coffee {of all things} and had a pay a pretty penny to have it repaired.
  • Our children had to attend child care before and after school—something they rarely have to do {and each time costs money}.
  • ‘Tis the season for those dang baby ants.  Anyone else have those? We had to hire the exterminator to come out.
  • And the worst: Randy’s sweet 93-year-old Grampie passed away.  This not only emotionally took a toll on us, but extra time and money went into trips to the hospital to visit him before he passed, the visitation, funeral, burial, etc.

So, yeah . . .

To meet our goal of being debt-free by the end of 2016, we have to put at least $3,000 toward our student loans each month.  This month, we were only able to do $1,211.

That’s not even half.

Amid my grumblings above, I am thankful that we at least still put a dent in the balance. It could be worse.  We could have made no progress at all, or even gone further into debt. It’s still incredibly frustrating though.

Like I said, we still worked our butts off.  I was not able to sleep in one Saturday in April because I was either supervising the ACT or a detention. During one detention, a detainee called me a “bitch” for asking him to remove his hat . . . so . . . that was nice.

My husband and I also catered a wedding at the end of April.  The bride and groom ordered 65 dozen bondbons {that’s 780!} for their big day.   I love doing weddings.

13064517_10153723391707424_1527324854775952704_o

The Bonds catering Bondbons.

We weren’t the only ones who worked hard.  Our kids did too.  They had to pull some weight into raising money for their summer activities.  One thing they did was go door-to-door around our neighborhood and sold candy bars.  They did pretty well and, in my opinion, were the cutest solicitors our neighbors have ever encountered.

12920490_10153666469837424_8484278281327925785_n

My kids selling candy bars to raise money for summer camps.

Oh!  And one more thing to add to the list.  I found $0.35.  That was definitely put to good use. {wink}.

I’m praying that May will be a much better month.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

 

 

Advertisements

Paying Down Debt – March 2016

I usually try to come up with something funny, thoughtful, or inspirational to share at the beginning of these posts, but I just don’t have it in me this month for our debt update.

Sorry, kids.

Nothing particularly interesting happened this month, but we were still able to pay off $2,973 in March.

Holla.

Click here to see our latest balance.

We’ve done the same old same old this past March:

  • I have continued tutoring a home bound student
  • I have subbed as much as possible during my plan period
  • Randy and his crew have done a lot of painting
  • We sold some stuff around the house through Facebook
  • I’ve supervised detentions
  • I had a successful month with Bondbons
  • I have done some committee work through school
  • We’ve made a point to be exceptionally frugal

I am happy to report that we have now paid off 70% of our debt.  Eek!

This March we celebrated both our son and daughter’s birthdays.  Birthdays can get expensive, but since we budget for birthdays, Christmas, and other gifts throughout the whole year, this was not an added financial stress this month.  Do you know how much more enjoyable it is to celebrate your child’s special day when you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay for everything?

Well, it’s glorious.

Stay tuned for our next update.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

Paying Down Debt – August 2015

August is hard, friends.

That’s when school starts back up, and since everyone in our house is either a teacher or a student, August means we have to readjust to a life of packing lunches, lesson plans, homework, carpooling, grading, learning new names, and actually showering on a regular basis (I speak the truth, people).  All that sucks up a majority of our time, which doesn’t allow for much money-making to throw at our debt (or for me to blog, which is why it’s been awhile, sorry).

Our required minimum payment for the student loans is $400/month.  With what we budget, we typically pay down at least $1,000/month.  In the midst of going back to school, this month we were still able to pay off:

$2,541.  

You can check out our current balance here.

Not bad.  I will be honest, though.  Even though that is a lot, it’s hard to see those numbers compared to last month.  Those numbers are also not going to get us to our goal to be debt free by January 1, 2017.  That means we’re going to have to kill it going forward.

Here is what we did in August to pay down our debt:

  • I made a decent profit through my Bondbons business.
  • My husband put in many hours with his Promise Painting and Contracting Business.
  • I was paid for a few cake pop classes I taught at Sweet! in July.
  • We discovered an issue with our home security system and received a credit.
  • I was paid for working on a curriculum committee through my school district over the summer.
  • We budgeted earlier in the summer to visit my parents in Ohio.  We ended up spending way less than what we allotted, so the leftover money went toward the debt.

I also wanted to touch on our compound interest.  It’s the devil when it’s working against you. When we got serious about paying off our student loans nearly two years ago, we were paying $10.93 just in interest PER DAY.  Today, our daily interest is $6.61.  In two years that is a difference of:

$4.30 PER DAY

$129.60 PER MONTH

$1,576.80 PER YEAR

I delight in the fact that less and less of our hard-earned money is going toward interest and more and more is paying down that principal.

Stay tuned for our next update on October 1st.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

Paying Down Debt – July 2015

You guys,

I’m pretty pumped.  This July was probably the most productive month we’ve had since we’ve gotten intense about paying off our debt.  On average, we typically pay down about $1,000 a month, but this month we killed it.

We paid off $4,561.

Whoa.

You can check out our debt snowball progress here.

We also finally got our balance below $50,000 for the first time ever.  If you haven’t read our full debt story yet, $50,000 was Randy’s original student loan amount when we married in 2004.  After denial + accruing interest {that grew an additional $26,000} it took us 11 years to get our debt back down to that original amount.

ELEVEN YEARS.

Isn’t that dumb?

If we would have tackled our debt back then, we wouldn’t be in this situation.  All we can do now is push forward so we don’t have this regret in the future.

So . . . how did we have such success this month?  We made some smart moves and worked our tails off.  Fortunately we are both teachers and have extra time this summer to do so.  I usually catch up on my sleep during the summer.  Not this year.

Here is what we did to put such a huge dent in our debt this month:

  • I taught summer school for a month.
  • My husband put in about 70+ hours a week with his Promise Painting & Contracting business.
  • We both supervised the ACT test on a Saturday morning.
  • We were able to lower our monthly home security bill {money saved applied to debt}.
  • Our kids didn’t have piano lessons for the month {money saved applied to debt}.
  • I changed one of my checking accounts.  This account grew interest, but I had to keep a minimum balance of $500.  With the interest rate now only 0.01%, that means it only grew about one cent/month.  So . . . I had $500 just sitting there to gain $0.12/year? That makes zero sense.  I called the bank and switched to a non-interest earning account and put that $500 toward the debt.
  • Randy fixed a couple of cars for people {he used to be a certified mechanic}.
  • We had a garage sale.
  • I taught several cake pop classes. 
  • I was fortunate to get a lot orders for my Bondbons business—including a large wedding this month.
Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Phew.  There were some nights I was up until 2:00 AM dipping bondbons in chocolate with tears in my eyes—wanting to give up.  Then I see results like that and it reminds me that it will all be worth it.

Stay tuned for September 1st for our next update.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

How We Took a Family of 8 on a Disney Vacation for Under $5,000

MEXICO

It’s deemed the happiest place on earth, but an all-out, week-long family trip to Disney can set you back the equivalent amount of a brand new car.  Before my husband and I entered our debt-free journey, we promised our five kids {and one grandchild} a Disney World vacation for a week in 2014.  Obviously, a family of eight was not going to be cheap.  In fact, after doing the math, for all of us to stay on site with a meal plan, it would’ve run anywhere from $12,000-28,000.  {That didn’t even include the traveling expenses!}

Um. No.  

Going into debt for this vacation was not an option.  After three years of planning, researching, and saving, we were able to take our Kansas family of eight to Disney World for five days and the beach for two all for under $5,000 {TOTAL}.

Here’s a breakdown of how we did it:

1.THE DISNEY CREDIT CARD

Yes, I’m a Dave Ramsey fanatic, but unlike him, I do use credit cards for benefits and I’ve never carried a balance on one.  Ever.  Sorry, Dave.

Anyway, back in 2011, I signed up for the Disney Rewards Visa card.  This way I could earn points over the next three years to pay for our tickets.  With this card you receive:

  • 2% back on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations {stores, etc.}, and
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

There are other perks that you can read about here.

You better believe that I used that card for everything.  Everything within our budget, that is–paying it off each month.  In addition to the regular purchases like gas, groceries, and dining out, I used this card to pay our home and car insurance, my daughter’s dance lessons, my son’s baseball fees, our cell phone bills, our internet bills, and our cable. You guys, I even started tithing to our church using the credit card.

After three years, I was able to rack up $1,300.00 to use toward our Disney trip.  Not bad.

I applied those points directly to our ticket cost.  A five-day ticket with a Park Hopper for five adults and two kids {the baby was free} totaled $2,592.88.  After applying my Disney Reward points, I only owed $1,292.88.

  1. THE SOUTHWEST VISA CARD

About six months before our big vacation, I stopped using the Disney Visa and applied for a Southwest Visa card.  When you sign up you automatically earn 25,000 points.  After that you get one (1) point for every dollar you spend.  I stopped using the Disney card and put everything I listed above on this card.  In just six short months I was able to rack up enough points to cover the cost of two round-trips to Florida.  That left me with one round-trip ticket left to buy, which cost $479.81.

  1. DRIVING vs. FLYING

I really wanted for all eight of us to fly together, but that would have cost at least $3,600.00. Plus, one of my adult stepdaughters lives in Nebraska and the other two {+ the baby} are in Colorado, so we had to split up the traveling.  I was able to fly out all three of my stepdaughters {+ the baby} with my Southwest Rapid Rewards points {see above}.

My husband, two little kids, and I bit the bullet and drove the 1,320 miles {one way} ourselves.  The average gas price at the time was $3.51/gallon.  We get about 27 MPG in our minivan.  Add in that we drove about an additional 500 miles to the beach and around town, and our total cost for fuel was $408.20.

  1. STAYING OFF-SITE
Our rental house in Kissimmee.

Our rental house.

Instead of staying at a resort, we rented a huge house in Kissimmee via VRBO.  Check it out. 

This home has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private pool, wifi, a fully stocked kitchen, and more.  This was much better than the eight of us being crammed into two hotel rooms.  I don’t care if we did have to drive back and forth to the park {which was only four miles away}, the space and privacy was invaluable.  In fact, my kids preferred swimming at the house over anything else we did that week. This place only ran $179.00/night for eight nights.

Since we drove, we also had to stay in a hotel for two nights on the way to Florida from Kansas.  I was able to get some good deals on Priceline for only $48.99/night, so our grand total for housing was $1,529.98.

  1. FOOD

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

I know you can go to Disney during the “off season” and get free dining, but that was not an option for two teachers; we really didn’t have a choice other than going in the summer.  So, instead of eating at the park or dining out each meal, we went grocery shopping.

  • For breakfast we ate cereal at the house before heading to the park.
  • For lunch we packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, and bottled water and ate at the park each day.
  • Most evenings, we came back to the house and enjoyed a home-cooked dinner.

We did set aside some money to get a few snacks at Disney and dined out three times.

The last night we splurged by going to Planet Hollywood—which, by the way, accepts Disney reward points.  After purchasing our tickets, we still had $35.00 worth of reward money to spend, which we applied to our bill.

We ended up spending $722.00 on all food expenses for the entire eight days we were there.

  1. THE BEACH
Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Since Kansas is quite possibly the farthest state from the ocean, we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to go to the beach when it was only 95 miles away.  We did Disney for five days, but also spent two days at Clearwater Beach.  Besides gas {already factored in to #3}, going to the beach was FREE. {Yes, we packed food for this too}.

  1. RENTAL CAR

Our minivan holds seven, but we had eight in our party; therefore, we rented a small car so we could all safely split up during the week if needed and travel to the beach.  I found a deal on Priceline and was able to get a rental for only $14.99/day after taxes.  That totaled $119.98.

  1. PARKING

Parking at Disney will set you back $18.00/day.  The first day, we were good stewards and drove the van and the rental car to the park.  But if we did that all five days, that was going to total $180.00.

That’s just silly.

So we did what any sensible family would do.  We strapped our six-year-old son to the top of the van.

OK, just kidding.  We broke the law in a different way.

{Wink . . . please don’t tell my mom, btw  . . . }. Since Disney was only four miles from our rental house, the eight of us piled into van {meaning someone had to sit on the floor} and we only had to pay parking for one vehicle.  Parking cost us $108.00 over five days.

  1. SOUVENIRS

There are all sorts of souvenir stores in Kissimmee, and you can get gifts for the fraction of the price you’d pay at an actual Disney store.  I bought a few things from the stores outside the Park during our stay and only ended up paying $28.00.

  1. MISCELLANEOUS

I knew we would need pool toys, beach toys, parkas, sunscreen and more.  Before our big trip, I bought most of this stuff at the dollar store, local grocery stores, garage sales, and even borrowed some stuff from friends.  The cost for all the extras was only about $42.00.

  1. DISNEY TRADING PINS

I didn’t even know Disney Trading Pins were even a “thing” until my good friend Kara told me about it two weeks before our trip and insisted we participate.  These pins run anywhere from $8.99-$34.99 each {yikes!}.  Instead I went to eBay and bought a lot of 25 for only $12.99 + FREE SHIPPING.

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

The grand total of our vacation:

$4,743.84 {give or take a few bucks}

Not bad for a family of eight. Some parts may not have been ideal, but nothing compares to a debt-free vacation.  We still made many memories and had an awesome time being together.

Watch the video below to see for yourself. 🙂

Do you have some tips for saving money at Disney?  Please share in the comments.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

Christmas is Not a Surprise

Hey, you.  I have a little secret to share.

Christmas was on December 25th this past year.

Word on the street is . . . it will be on December 25th this year, and the next, and the next, and the next  . . .

You know what else?  Your kids’ birthdays are on the same day each year. Valentine’s Day is always February 14th, Mother’s Day is always in May, and Father’s Day is always in June.

These events should not be surprises where you are suddenly scrambling for money to buy a gift for your loved ones—or worse—you go into debt because you didn’t plan ahead.

As I type this, it is June 25th—Christmas is exactly six months away.  You have roughly 183 days to plan for the biggest holiday of the year.  You should also plan for every other occasion for which you might purchase a gift.  Never again be that person who says, “Things are just too tight around this time of year . . .”  I was that person who used to utter such words—who didn’t budget for gifts and had to dig under the couch cushions come December.  That way of living is stressful and zero fun.  I finally got smart and figured out how to never worry about any gift-giving throughout the entire year.

Here is my super easy guide to help you have a stress-free gift-giving experience.

  1. MAKE A LIST

Sit down and make a list of every person you anticipate giving a gift to for any occasion from January 1st-December 31st—even if it’s just a small $5 gift you give to some of your co-workers.  Those add up and must be included.

Here’s a sample list for you:

  • Birthdays and Christmas {see the next list}
  • Your wedding anniversary
  • Parents’ anniversary
  • Birthday parties your kids will attend {I estimate each of my kids attend seven a year}
  • Weddings {I estimate we attend three weddings a year}
  • Bridal showers
  • Baby showers
  • Engagement parties
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Easter
  • Teacher Appreciation Day
  • Nurse’s Day
  • Administrative Assistant’s Day
  • Graduation parties {I estimate at least five a year for us}
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Grandparent’s Day
  • Boss’s Day
  • Sweetest Day {do people really observe this one?}
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving

Make a separate list of every single person you typically buy a birthday and/or Christmas present for.  Here’s another list to spark some ideas for you:

  • Spouse
  • Kids
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Nieces/Nephews
  • Aunts/Uncles
  • Siblings
  • Cousins
  • Co-workers
  • Teachers
  • Friends
  • Pastor/mentor
  • Doctor
  • Mail carrier
  • Hair dresser
  • Neighbors
  • Child care provider

#2 SET A LIMIT

Now that you have your entire list made, decide how much you plan to spend on each person for each occasion.  It’s important that you plan this NOW so that you don’t go overboard when you see something that you really want to purchase.  If you have decided ahead of time that you will only spend $50 on your cousin’s wedding gift, but you see something you know she’d love for $500, it’s easier to turn away because you have established that it’s not in your budget. If you do want to spend more for a special reason, look at suggestion #4.

Setting a limit is especially important if you have “multiples” in a situation.  For example, we have five kids.  I make a point to spend the exact same amount on each child for Christmas so that it’s fair. Spend the same on your own mother and mother-in-law for Mother’s Day, etc.

#3 ADD, DIVIDE, SAVE

Now that you’ve decided what you plan to spend on each person for each occasion, add it all up and divide by 12.

You now have your monthly budget for gifts.  

See?  It’s really so simple.

I suggest setting up a separate checking or savings account just for this. Every month I have my bank automatically transfer funds into my “gifts” account.  Whenever I need to purchase a gift, it comes out of there and I have the money for it.  No more scrambling.   You may also want to add an additional $20/month or so just in case you forgot someone or a friend suddenly decides to have a ginormous celebration for their dog’s 12th birthday. {Please don’t invite me to a party like that, btw}.

If your monthly amount is too much for you to afford, then you’re going to have to go back and reevaluate what you plan to spend on each person, or sadly, scratch some people off the list.  Sorry.  Life’s hard.

If you can’t afford the monthly costs of gifts throughout the entire year, how are you going to afford it all come December?  

Or what are you going to do when you have an influx of events? {Four of my nieces and nephews have a birthday in July alone.}

Maybe you work a seasonal job during the holidays or typically get a bonus around December.  That’s great, but I wouldn’t count on that to be my only means of Christmas spending.  What if you got laid off or Bath & Body Works is no longer hiring extra help? You’re now screwed and Christmas is just weeks away.  Not to mention, you still have other gifts throughout the year to purchase and budget for.

#4 SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Momentous occasions are bound to happen . . . your daughter’s sweet 16, your son graduates from college, your parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  You’re probably going to drop a little more cash on these special events than usual.  When you make your lists and set your spending limits, consider if you have a one of these coming up in the near future and plan accordingly.

Many times, these events call for separate planning and budgeting.  If you plan to help your child with buying a car when they turn 16, that will require a few years of planning for most people.  My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary last year.  Instead of gifts, we decided to take the entire family to Disney.  We planned for over three years for that trip so we could pay cash for everything.  This really had nothing to do with our gift budget.

If you’d like to really set a serious budget for all areas of your money, I highly recommend www.everydollar.com.  It’s FREE and the best budgeting tool out there.

I’d love to hear your questions or your own tips about budgeting for gifts.  Please leave them in the comments.

Happy Gift Giving!

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM