Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vehicle Purchase

We purchased a replacement vehicle on Thursday and I am thrilled! It's been such a struggle to balance me getting to work, Matt getting to work, and all the fun stuff in between like Lauren going to the Dr with pneumonia.

We test drove a few Grand Voyager's and looked at a few other older minivans and just didn't get much to choose from. We were ready to buy one from a place down the road from us, but there was some concern about the water pump, and he wasn't willing to replace it or come down on price, so we had to walk away. It was so unnerving because all I wanted to do was just get something and get on already.

So Thursday Matt found an amazing deal online for a 2001 Honda Odyssey. Slightly outside of our budget, but for a Honda, it was something that we had to stop and take a look at. After a test drive and running the numbers, we decided to break our own rule and finance part of the cost of the vehicle. We did put down the $4000 we had intended to use for a vehicle and financed $2480 for 2 years knowing that we'll have it paid off by the end of this year. In actuality, it was only $1480 more than we owed on the van I totaled.

I know, I am still justifying the purchase to myself. I realize we backslid and went off plan. Ultimately though, I really feel as though we made a good purchase since we were able to get a very safe, very reliable vehicle that is going to last our family a very, very long time.

Frugal Living Resources

Dave says to eat lots of beans and rice, and when you get tired of that, eat some rice and beans. Matt and I actually have been eating red beans and rice quite a bit lately, and I have to say it's tasty if done right! We use bacon to make it, and that brings a lot of flavor. We pretty much buy any bacon (READ: CHEAP) that's on sale and I haven't noticed a different in taste at all.

I was checking my email this evening and got my update from the Hillbilly Housewife and thought that it would be a great addition to my blog. I love her updates! And there is just a ton of great information on her site.

I use her menu planning options for Angel Food Ministries to help get ideas on what to make with some of the things that come with the monthly box of food. I have an amazing homemade sweet and sour sauce recipe I got that way that is just awesome, and it's not glow in the dark red.

I do keep handy my copy of the Tightwad Gazette, but because it's a book it is a point in time reference. There just isn't anything new in it, so it's great to look through, but nothing new is being added, and that's where Hillbilly Housewife comes in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Over $18,000 in debt has been eliminated since September 1, 2008!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The claim on the van has been settled. Hooray!

As frugal as we are trying to be, I am so glad that I have AAA insurance. They have really worked hard to make this process go smoothly and I really feel that their settlement number to us is very fair. I know that I could probably find some cheapie car insurance company out there, but when you have a claim like this, it's nice to know that you are being taken care of adequately.

So the numbers came down to
Balance of the loan: $5090.19
Amount of the claim: $4843.50
Amount we owe: $246.69

Considering we rolled money from my Toyota into the loan for the van, I am very pleased!

That leaves us with nearly $4000 (if not $5000 if we have to tap into the BEF) to purchase a vehicle in cash. I can't wait! NO MORE CAR LOANS--EVER! Yes, freedom is creeping into our lives, and so much faster than I ever imagined! My Toyota was financed for 7 YEARS in August 2006. If we had made our regular payments, we would not have been car loan free until 2013!

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Limbo

I was talking to Matt last night about how I am so frustrated right at this moment by our vehicle situation. Thankfully my friend Jill has been able to drive me to work most days, so that leaves Matt with a vehicle in case the kids have an issue (since 2 of 3 have been sick). But that leaves me pretty stranded at work so I can't do errands or shopping on my lunch hour like I've become used to doing. Not to mention, the vehicle we do have is not the ideal situation for our kids. All three kids sit in one row, with Nick in the middle to irritate Nathan and Lauren on either side of him. If he's not kicking Nathan, he's poking Lauren in the face, smart girl has learned how to bite back ;-)

What else is frustrating is that we don't know where we are in our debt elimination plan. Yes, we still owe money on the van, but until we get a settlement number we don't know if we owe a difference or if it's going to be paid completely off. We hesitate to jump into another vehicle until we know exactly what money we have left to work with.

And in an optimistic note, we had a showing on our house on Friday. I wish I could say we had gotten an offer, but nothing as of yet. We aren't picky, we'll take whatever they offer, they just have to make it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some Shopping Savings

Just wanted to throw it out there some of the shopping I managed to squeeze in today.

4 packs of BIC razors, 1 bottle of saline solution, 1 tube of Colgate toothpaste, 1 bottle Garnier Fructis Conditioner.
Total before sale prices: $34.35
Sales: ($5.80)
Coupons: ($13.75)
Total: $14.80
After rebates: $8.46

Considering the razors are normally $5.99 for a pack of 4, I am pretty happy with this trip. Matt shaves his head and has very sensitive skin, so whenever I can find these particular razors on sale, I stock up.

I also had to run to Meijer to pick up my vitamins (do you know that they do free prenatal vitamins there???), and picked up a few groceries while I was in the store waiting. I snagged a bunch of 6 organic bananas that were marked down to 37cents! I was pretty happy with that since my kids will eat bananas morning, noon, and night. I am not sure what the criteria is that they use to mark down their produce, but even their mark downs are in better shape and last longer than our local grocery store!

bunch of bananas, 2 bags of Quaker rice cakes, 4 boxes of pizza rolls, 2 liter of Dr. Pepper, 10 cups of Dannon yogurt, 3 cups of soy yogurt, 2 cups of Meijer yogurt, 10 Lean Gourmet's (quick lunches for me at work), 2 Lipton side dishes.

Total before sale prices: $39.86
Total after sales and coupons: $16.07

Not one of my better trips, but not the worst either. Lauren and I have been eating a lot of yogurt, and Nick has taken a liking to it as well, so I have been buying more of that lately. Unfortunately, Nick can only have the soy yogurt, so I can't get as good of a deal on it as I can with the bigger national brands. But you can bet if I can find some coupons for Silk Soy yogurt, I am going to load up!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Minor Setback Or Is It?

The final word is in, the van is a total loss. So we are back to the drawing board so to speak. We can't really make a determination where we are financially in this mess until we know how much our insurance is going to pay out on the claim. We looked around online a little bit, and there really aren't many comparable older vehicles for sale in our area to really put it up against, so I am not sure how it will go.

I was able to cancel the large payment I sent through last week, so at least we don't have that money tied up. We just don't want to run out and buy a new vehicle with it until we know if we're taking a loss on it or not.

We are leaning towards buying another inexpensive vehicle and paying cash outright for it. So far we've combed through Craigslist to see what's out there and what we have to look at. But again, hesitant to make a move until we know more about our claim.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day Gift From Murphy

Just one day after funding our emergency fund back to full status, we welcomed Murphy to our house on Valentine's Day.

I was at a conference for work and Matt called because one of his employee's couldn't make it to work. So, I had to leave the conference early so that he could get to work. I was driving home and the roads were a million times better than when I left in the morning, so I was just driving along. I was stopped at the light and it turned green, so I went. Well there must have been a lot of slush piled up on the road that I just didn't see and my van started swerving side to side. I let go of the wheel and took my foot off the gas and in a blur I saw myself going towards the guard rail on the bridge over the highway. All I could do is close my eyes and pray that I didn't flip the van over the rail. The passenger side of my van hit the rail twice, once in the front and once in the back and I was on the opposite side of the road I started on and facing like I was driving southbound and just pulled over for a flat tire. Aside from the pieces of my van all over the road and the huge dent in the rail, you wouldn't know that I had just did some serious damage.

I wish I could say I could have driven the van home and it was just banged up a bit, but it really was not safe to drive with a good portion of the front end pushed into the wheel well. Thankfully we have good roadside coverage with AAA and Matt called for towing and came up to pick me up. The police came out and took a report and wrote me a ticket (which I expected since I did hit something).

I called and filed the claim tonight with AAA and it looks like we're going to be responsible for the $400 deductible, about $15 in towing fees (our limit is 15 miles and it was 19), and whatever the ticket costs me.

A crappy Valentine's Day, but I count my blessings:

1. I am alive
2. I was alone, my kids were not in the car
3. My airbags did not deploy (this is a strange fear of mine)
4. Nothing inside the car was broken

The inspector is coming out on Tuesday and we'll know how bad the damage is. We really, really hope that the van isn't a total loss. We really like it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Huge Chunk Gone!

Our tax returns are coming in and hitting our bank account over the next few days. We already got our state return back, and federal will hit tomorrow. We were expecting a larger return from MI than we ended up getting because we didn't do our property tax piece correctly. Thankfully the state was kind enough to fix our error and adjust our tax return accordingly *snicker*.

So this is what we did with our tax returns:

1. Replenished the emergency fund
2. Paid property taxes
3. Paid $4000 towards our van loan

Not as much as we had hoped, but still very significant. We were REALLY counting on paying the van off completely, but it just wasn't in the cards this time.

Matt and I went back and forth a little over what direction we should take with the money, and I felt very strongly in replenishing the emergency fund first. We've tapped it a couple of times and it was looking pretty slim, and when else are we going to get an opportunity to do it all at once rather than holding up our snowball for a month or so? It just seemed to make more sense.

Yesterday we also found out that our house payment is going up about $200/month because of losing our Homestead Property Tax exemption. Not only do we take a hit on our state taxes by not being able to claim our property taxes, we are taxed at the much higher rate. We are fortunate to be living in Matt's mom's house right now that is completely paid for, but we are paying the property taxes on it. Unfortunately, that puts us in a position where we are paying taxes on 2 houses in MI, neither of which are at the exempt rate. Go figure.

So my logic was that if things fall apart and this $200 increase puts us behind, we NEED that emergency fund fully stocked to be able to fall back on. We talked through it, and even though it wasn't what Matt really wanted to do, he agreed to it.

I think we both just need to come to terms with the fact that we didn't hit our goal this month of paying off our van, and that's a little blow to the momentum, but we did accomplish 3 pretty significant things. We have to celebrate ALL victories and I declare VICTORY!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shopping Day

Tuesday is typically the day of the week I do my shopping. That gives me all of Monday to get coupons in order from the weekend and make sure that I am getting the best price possible from all of my options available.

2 rolls of Bounty, Garnier shampoo, saline solution, 2 bottles of Fantastik
Total before coupons: $18.81
Total after coupons: $9.53
Total of mail in rebates: $7.98
Net total: $1.55

2lbs of bananas, Bbq sauce, 4 boxes of Meijer brand cereal, 2 boxes of Fiber One bars, 2 boxes of Fiber One muffin mix, 2 bottles of Vaseline lotion, 3 bags of pizza slices, 2 4pks of YoPlus yogurt, 1 bag of Chex Mix, 2 tubs of frosting, Herbal Essence Shampoo, Herbal Essence Conditioner, 2 cans of Progresso Soup
Total before coupons: $75.81
Total after coupons: $25.02

It's exhausting to go from store to store and clip the coupons, but the time investment is worth it to me. The key is to stock up on things so that you don't get in a position where you are out and have to pay full price or a less than "good" sale price.

When I find that I have too much of something, I am able to donate it or give it to a family member. I have some loose guidelines in my head that I follow, for example I won't pay more than 50cents for a tube of toothpaste, so I am usually giving away something that I paid a fraction of the cost for and can possibly help someone else out. My goal is to get a full stockpile of things so that I can get to the point where I am just picking up free stuff and donating it to the Project Hope Food Pantry or the Ronald McDonald House.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How I Save Money

Here is the site I use to cut my grocery bill.

The monthly investment is $20 and my typical grocery bill is $200/month at the very most.

I consider myself a coupon warrior!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Fun Weekend

We had some errands to run this weekend in town and it's quite a process to get 3 kids loaded up in the van and on the road. Not to mention we are trying to be very conservative with our gas in the van, so we don't make a trip for just one thing anymore.

So we set out on Saturday with a few things to get taken care of. Stop at Lowe's to exchange a light fixture, a stop at Barnes and Noble to use a gift card Nathan had gotten for his birthday, Matt wanted to run into Dunham's to check on backpacks, and I had a pack of socks I bought for Lauren that were too small.

After we went to Lowe's we went across the street to the mall (Centerpointe, the dead mall) and Matt went into Dunham's to look around. This was a great opportunity for me to take Nick and Lauren and let them run loose in the play area. Most mall play areas are just gross, but since this mall is essentially vacant, it's not really crowded and it's not full of kids too big to be playing. I think that they played for a good hour!! It worked out great because Matt and I were able to trade off the supervision and I got to walk around Old Navy (looking for markdowns on winter jackets for Nathan for next year) . I think we spent less than $2 on the trip and that was change in the bottom of my purse when I let the kids ride one of those silly car rides.

So after that we went across the road to Barnes and Noble. Nathan has had a gift card for a few weeks now and we just haven't had a chance to use it. Since we were out this way, why not. Well nobody told me that the B&N had a MASSIVE Thomas the Train table there for kids to play with. Why was I left out of this? Nick is our biggest challenge when we go out, so this was perfect. Nathan got to look around for books (Pokemon and Star Wars), and I had Lauren and Nick at the train table. The only slight problem we had was physically removing Nick from the store when it was time to go. He had that much fun at the train table. The only money spent was Nathan's, quite an accomplishment for me and Matt since we are both very avid readers of pretty much anything we can get our hands on.

Somewhere along the way we had decided we were going to eat Chinese that night. Not really a big deal because we don't eat out much at all and have actually been spending considerably less since we've been living Dave's way. But Lauren fell asleep in the car as did Nick at Barnes and Noble so we took the scenic route down to Wal-Mart for me to exchange those socks.

Dinner worked out pretty well. I am not typically a die hard Chinese buffet person, but this place really does have something for everyone, which is a HUGE struggle in our family. Nick has got to be the pickiest eater in the world. But when you have a buffet option, you can pretty much find something for everyone. He ate a huge plate of pineapple, bananas, a few french fries, and apples. It could be worse and it's probably the most I've seen him eat at one setting in weeks. No complaints here.

We finally made it home after being gone alllll day and when we tallied up the damage I was quite proud of us. Nathan spent the most money (a game for his DS, a little extra at the bookstore) and we had a pretty enjoyable day together. I think that the key was that we let the kids run loose a bit and burn off some energy.

We visited a church in town today that we have never gone to before because it was "Scout Sunday". They had the scouts and leaders wear their uniforms and talked about serving.

Oh and here's something to throw in there! I was checking my credit card balance online, which I do almost obsessively because I love watching it go down, down, down...and noticed that a $400 payment I had made wasn't on the account! So I clicked on it and looked further and I had a LATE FEE! WHAT!?! Turns out that Chase and their new online bill payment tripped me up and I made a mistake when I made my last payment to them. I got them on the phone, and the nice woman in India transferred me back to the US to someone named Jason who looked at my account and saw that I wasn't trying to play a scam on them or anything and reversed the fee off and let me make the payment right away.

I can't wait to be debt free so that I don't have to worry about this kind of crap EVER AGAIN!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where We Are Today

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fun Post!

Here's a fun (long post) taken from Facebook:


the value of your car doubles every time you fill the gas tank!

you buy a soda and immediately start calculating how much money you would have in 30 years if you had put that $1.00 into a Roth IRA.

…you walk around with money in your wallet.

…you see a guy driving a 15 year old car and you think, I wonder if he would sell it to me . know 15 different recipes for rice and beans.…

the voice in your head now has a southern accent, and you are from the Northeast, from listening to DR so much throughout the day!

…you discover that you have a Little Dave in your head.

...someone says you are weird, and you say 'thank you!'

...the alarm on your watch reminds you to balance your checkbook....every day.

…you only have pity for someone when you observe the latest vehicle purchase, furniture purchase, house rehab, ... made in effort to keep up with the joneses.

…you had 4 very successful yards sales and you can still find things to sell.

…the bumper sticker on the back of your car reads: "My other car actually has a hood!"

…your automatic response to the phrase "Mom, I want..." is "Save up!" count late fees from the library as an addition to your debt snowball. call your spouse excitedly to tell him/her you have saved up enough in the emergency account to get old junker worked on (including replacing the windshield wipers)

.…it pains you to pull out your credit card and you hear Dave's voice telling you, "Does it look like I have stupid on my forehead?."

…you start using your unsolicited credit applications as tinder for your fireplace.

…you respond "better than I deserve" every time someone asks you how you're doing.

…you start a sentence with "Well, Dave says..." and your friends just roll their eyes and walk away.

…the guy who works at Quik-Trip makes fun of you for putting cash your QT Gas Card every week instead of just using your debit card.

…someone looks at you weird when you tell them you ONLY pay cash and actually GET cash out of the bank every payday.

…you see someone in a BMW, and think "moron is fleecing it I bet".

…you scrape the soap scum off of the side of your tub to make a "new" bar.

…your wife makes you take off your socks; but not your orange wristband!

…you walk down a row of cars at the mall and wonder how many might be paid for.

…your teenagers ask if Dave will let us get take-out pizza on the week-end, and our reply is Dave would want us to make home made pizza instead.

…you count out the slices of ham to see if they will last the week's lunches.

…you make your kid's grilled cheese sandwich with only 1/2 a slice of cheese. say, "Because Dave said so," every time your kids ask why they have to eat beans and rice again.

…an acquaintance calls your house and asks to speak with your husband Dave.

…you scream, "NO!" in the checkout line after seeing someone pull out their credit card to pay for their groceries.

…grandma asks you what Johnny wants for his birthday/Christmas and you reply, "Actually, any donation amount to his ESP would be fine." Even better when you immediately hand her a pre-printed piece of paper with his account information.

…you scream "NOOO! DON'T DO IT! when you see the people about to do a debt CONsolidation on a TV commercial.

…you rinse out a sandwich bag for reuse.

…you think "I wonder if there's a way to reuse toilet paper."

…your children run and hide in a panic when you ask them "I wonder what I can sell on Ebay Now?"

…you feel good about paying a student loan off early at 1.875% interest, instead of investing that in mutual funds at 12%

.…the girl behind the register asks you "Credit or Debit," and you snap back at her without thinking "I don't have a stinking credit card... do I look stupid?"

…you see other people who are driving nice brand new expensive cars who think they have it all when you know how wrong they really are. (unless they paid cash for it, which I highly doubt)

…you're snowball is made of chips of plastic, checks, coins, and currency, instead of ice and water.

…you do a cost per pound analysis on the tomatoes from your garden.

…you've cut your dryer sheets in half to get double the use per box.

…your teen daughter preaches to her friends the dangers of credit cards.

…your hubbies millionaire boss is impressed while his broke co-workers are making fun of him.

…you've cut your own hair to avoid paying a hairstylist (just this past evening).

…you've filled up on leftover hamburger helper before going out with friends and only ordering iced tea.

...your mom feels bad for your rice and beans diet that she brings you groceries every time she comes over.

... you have your son's first birthday party at home, with homemade food and a homemade cake, instead of one of those party places with a store-bought cake, like you did your other son's birthday party.

... your husband keeps trying to talk you into getting a new van, but you have the nerve to tell him maybe after the debt snowball, but for now, would he please just fix the durn thing?

... your kids ask for store-bought waffles or some other convenience food, and get a five minute lecture on how much cheaper and healthier it is to eat it cooked from scratch. feel sorry for your friend when she goes on a shopping spree, instead of jealous.

…you ask to purchase a cell phone battery because yours is not charging and the sales person behind the counter says it is cheaper to upgrade the phone to a new one ... and you look at her and think has she lost her mind.

…your family believes that you have lost your marbles and says things to you like but you can afford it dear...and it will make you feel so much better.

…the internal temperature in the house is 62 degrees and you try to justify turning the thermostat down a little bit more to save on energy costs.

…you wear all your dry cleanables at least 2-3 times so you don't have to take them back to the cleaners yet.

…your 9 & 7 YO kids:
-yell at the infomercials on tv: "you just want our money! That stuff doesn't work!"
-ask you to set up a another savings fund because they want a [fill in the blank here]
-ask to go to the second hand shop to pick up some computer games
-believe in Santa because Mom & Dad would NEVER buy all that stuff!

…the co-workers in the cubicles around you begin to whisper about their new car purchases and leases, because they know they're about to get another Lecture on stupidity!

…you can listen to another channel during commercials and turn back to the Dave Ramsey Show at exactly the right time for the next segment.

…you clip coupons for $0.25 off at the $1.75 cleaners!

…you go shopping for a new purse, and it HAS TO BE a shape to work with your envelopes. rinse out a paper towel and lay it on the counter to dry for use again later.

…when you go to the bank the teller says "Oh, it must be allowance day."

…you call the bank to check a client's loan history and the teller who usually waits on you answers the phone and after hearing who are you says, "it's not time for your allowance yet."

…the teller who usually waits on you is busy but tells the teller helping you "She doesn't want an envelope, she has her own."

…you have a piece of paper taped down to your computer desk to write down the exact hour/minute you left off while listening online. So you can find the right spot the next day when you listen again. So you don't miss a second of the show!

…you hear the beginning of Baker Street (the DR theme song) on the radio you get really disappointed that they play the whole song, and it's not followed by a DR segment.

…you calculate other people's stupid tax for them.

…your regular teller writes a note to the kids explaining that the computer was down and that mom really couldn’t fill the envelopes that day!

…YOU see THE NEW 2007 SUBURBAN with someone else driving it and start screaming...y’all have my debt payment!!!

…you have literally taped your debit cards in your wallet.

…your family is watching tv with a jacket on in the winter because your too cheap to turn the heat on.

…every time you are riding beside a brand new or really nice car, you say to yourself, 'Their Broke'.

...…the thought of shopping for stuff you don't need makes you ill. move in with your in laws to save money. see furniture on the side of the road and you realize it's in better shape than your own. use credit cards and Satan in the same sentence. price compare thrift shops for the best bargain. still have money on your Christmas gift card cause you really really can't spend the money.

…you have Baker Street for a ring tone on your cell phone. the first sign of spring you start planning your garage sale.

…you enter a store and see no clearance racks and immediately walk out.

…you wait till your son is working at your favorite pizza joint to order because he gets a 30% employee discount (only when he is working)

…you waited to upgrade your TMMO to a yearly subscription until you were sure you would be receiving the brand new edition of the book instead of the old one.

…you can't wait until the show is over to download it onto your IPOD.

…you work at a dept store and another employee comes through your line and I ask "Will this be Associate Cash?" and they immediately go into an explanation about why it has to go on their dept store card.

…your sons ask for a ROTH IRA for Christmas!

...your unemployed EX spends $18.80 to Express mail your kid $10.00 cash in a card and some candy in a box. Your kid rolls his eyes and says "He could be using this money for groceries! What's wrong with him?”

…you re-arrange the books at the bookstore so DR books stand out the most!

…you make your own laundry soap for 3 cents per load and cannot keep from telling everyone you know how to do it themselves!!!

…you use vinegar for fabric softener and actually make people sniff your sleeve to prove to them that it actually works!

…you get up at 4-5am every morning (and don't have to) to pack your spouse's lunch so he won't eat out at fast food joints.

…you are excited at the opportunity to go grocery shopping and whip out the crazy envelope wallet in the hopes that it will spur a conversation with anyone about getting out of debt!!

…your dear husband actually calls you Dave. Tells the waitress at the restaurant to "give the bill to Dave" and points at you.

…you shed tears watching the baby gazelle escape the cheetah "go baby go go go go go!" or even typing it.

…you see someone driving an economical 88 honda accord and you know that it has to be paid for and your are jealous.

..…you can walk out of Home Depot for under $20 and paid for it with cash.

..…you keep a budget on your fridge in your purse and on your mirror in the bathroom to remind you what you are trying to do!

…you can spend less than $3 dollars at Wendy's and feed two people.

…you decide Beano is too expensive for your rice and bean budget. ask your husband if he has gas and he thinks you are talking about gas due to the rice and bean budget instead of the car.

…when they were talking about making soap out of bathtub scum and you were thinking of credit card collector scum.

...your pets have their own envelope.

...dear husband is jealous because the pets used coupons, bought on sale, and had some money "left over" so they got to buy the pet toys they had their eyes on. are shopping for office supplies with the company credit card and still feel bad. are shopping for office supplies for work and can't bear to not compare prices, buy generic and get the very best deal. are eating off a card table because you would rather put your money toward a fully funded emergency fund.

...your mother-in-law writes a check at the bank for cash and puts it in an envelope, because you are with her buying holiday groceries.

...your friends who have been in FPU with you see you at the store and quickly pull out their envelopes and wave them at you as if you are the "Envelope Police." have change piles in different areas of your house. Waiting... waiting just in case you don't have enough money in your envelopes. But you never use it because you always make it to payday! have enough checks to last you three years, because you ordered them BDR (Before Dave Ramsey). know exactly what Dave is going to say to any question that is asked of him, and you can't help cringing... and snickering....knowing that they will be informed really soon!

…your 5&6 y.o. go around saying, "Credit cards are EVIL! Evil I tell ya" and your 2 y.o. follows them around saying, "Evil, Evil."

…your kids don't even bother asking for the toy anymore at McD's.

…you feel guilty for even going to McD's.

…your kids randomly say, "my dad's in Iraq making money because we're really poor" to strangers.

…you hear your kids talking about asking for something & one of them says, "You know we don't have money for that, but maybe we can ask mom if we can save up."

…you can recite Dave's opening at the beginning of every hour: "Live from Financial Peace Plaza, it's The Dave Ramsey Show! Where debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice. I am Dave Ramsey, your host, and this is the BEST is talkradio. Service oriented talkradio. Talkradio that matters. Talkradio about you and for you. [The rest varies]"

…you use crayons to color in squares, squares that represent money paid on a debt that's blown up and taped to your fridge. And you REALLY enjoy coloring in those squares!!'s a good thing to be awake in the middle of the night thinking about money. Not because you can't sleep from fear but because you can't sleep for thinking about what you can cut to pay off the debt sooner.

...a really NICE gift for Valentine's Day is a steak dinner. And you about die when you sink your teeth into that first bite because it's been a year and a half since you've had steak. sit here literally bawling your eyes out from happiness when you get a family member hooked on DR. think the best $100 you've ever spent is for 10 TMMO books that you hand out to friends and co-workers. If it changes even one family it was money well spent a hundred times over!…your 10 yr. old tells you your "cheap".

…you see everyone around you in fancy cars and your first thought is "suckers".

…you see the "immigrants" driving some beat up car with 4 guys riding together and think that's really smart, good for them.

…your neighbor owns an $80K boat and is not satisfied and wants a $100K boat on his equity line and you feel sorry for him for not understanding this is debt.

…your 11 yr. understands that credit cards are a bad idea. …your 11 yr. tells his younger brother he will help him when he's a millionaire since he's saving his money.

…your kids can tell their friends they have Money Market accts at a high yield.

…you have a panic attack when you see someone spend money on toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant or aspirin.

…you catch yourself saying "what a rip-off" because a sale is only 75% off.

…you can repeat just about all of the commercials, and you can repeat word for word the disclaimer at the end of the show. "This program is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered. This information is given with the understanding that neither the host nor this station is engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Since the details of your situation are fact dependent, you should additionally seek the services of a competent professional".

…your icon picture is an old picture of Dave!

…your 11 year old son can calculate the interest earned/paid on a specific dollar amount for a year, in his head.

…your 8 year old daughter gets teased at school for being poor and your family income is over 100K.

…your 8 year old daughter responds to being called poor by telling the person she's rich because her family loves and supports her.

…you hear of a friend getting a big settlement (100k) and the first thing out of your mouth is, "You had better be paying off debt!"

…your neighbor just bought a $35,000 SUV because they need more room now that they have a baby (whatever) and you know they look down their noses at our 10 year old paid for car and instead of feeling jealous of their new purchase you know that you really are the lucky ones because you will be debt free except the house by May! save over $70 on a hotel room and then refuse to spend an extra $10 to upgrade to a room with a view.

…you ask your child to help you think of a "you might be a Dave Ramsey fan if...." and he says..."I AM NOT A DAVE RAMSEY FAN"...where was that support group?

…you hear about someone winning a large sum of money and you think about how much debt you could pay off if you had won it.

…you hear about someone winning a large sum of money and you think about how you could have an FFEF if you had won it.

…you hear about someone winning a large sum of money and you think of all the ways you would invest it.

…your idea of a big Friday night date with your spouse is sitting reading blogs of other Dave Ramsey fans… and having a blast because we see ourselves.

…your 6 year old asks you if we're debt free yet

…you over hear your six year old telling grandma "when we're debt free" I'm getting such and such

…you ask your 15 year Daughter old to grab that cd' out of the burner (of the Ramsey show) so you can listen to it on the way to work and when you go to put it in the car you realize she has titled the disc... "oh Crap" its dave again!!!!

…you get the kids a new puppy and you name Him Murphy/ Ramsey and the goldfish are named Broke, Desperate and stupid.

…you find yourself jackknifed in a trailer park because the beater that you just bought had to be towed with a car dolly.

…your coworkers start answering their own question: "I know ... better than you deserve" just after they asked the question "How are you?"

.…it makes you cringe to say "credit" when using your check card, when asked "Debit or credit?"

…you ask for an estimate at the veterinary office during an emergency visit, before deciding what you can afford that day, because you already depleted your baby emergency fund for an emergency dental visit for yourself.

…you delay necessary dental procedures until the money you paid for the last medical visit/dental procedure has cleared your insurance, flexible spending account and been reimbursed back into your account.

…your "blow money" envelope is only $10 to $20 per week, and that is used on groceries, making you realize that you need to increase your grocery cash envelope and decrease some other category.

…you pay certain people in cash just because they take so long to deposit your checks that it takes longer for you to balance your checkbook.

…you turn down invitations to lunch, etc. because it is "not in the budget"

.…instead of giving people towels, etc. that they asked for, for their wedding, you give them Dave Ramsey books (all 10, which includes the two Spanish ones and the three workbooks, if you are feeling generous), because you want to make absolutely sure that they are on the same page with their money going into their marriage.

…you ask "How much" instead of "How much down? or "How much per month?"

.…you have a lot of Dave Ramsey "isms" playing a tape in your head, and find yourself repeating them (or at least wanting to repeat them) as soon as someone starts to even suggest the idea of doing something unwise/ill-advised with money.

…your then 9 year old daughter graciously receives a gift card from her Aunt and then discreetly whispers in your ear, "Is this debt?"

…you have to tell the bank teller the number of each specific denomination you need when you get your cash so it will be easily split between your 7 envelopes AND so the 3 kids on commission who need to be paid in all ones can easily split their commission for their OWN envelopes.

…you live without a working oven for 7 months so you can save for the replacement all the while mastering the art of baking on the top rack of your gas grill.

...your 10 year olds 1 year old bike suddenly has new life when she is told she will have to replace it with her own money since she has not outgrown it, if she no longer "likes" it

.…"freeeeedom" is no longer thought of as a phrase from Braveheart, but rather a signal that someone is debt free.

…you read ten pages of posts.

…you cringe while the in-laws explain the benefits of getting down to two credit cards (his and hers!) when you try to get them on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon.

…the tellers at your bank keeps track of where you are in line and pace their work to try to get you to use another teller; all because they know you'll be overloading them with requests for strange combinations of various monetary denominations to put in your dozen envelopes.

…you give your 8year old son a quarter for him to pay for a small notebook and when you ask for the change he says it was his money.(no pockets -drops coins twice in the walk over to me) I explain that it was my quarter that he paid for the book with... Then in front of the check-out he screams "But that is BORROWING you are NOT suppose to borrow". (coins go in bag with book)

…you would rather learn how to sew a slip cover than to spend money on a new couch watch other people go out for lunch during work and feel bad for them plan camping vacations months in advance, not to make sure you can get the time off but so it doesn't throw your budget off.

…you begin referring to yourself as the "King of cheap Saturday" know, walks in the park, making sandwiches, free movies at the town plaza.

…you felt bad for whomever brought their brand-new Chrysler Minivan to the Dallas Live Event (complete with window sticker). Talk about putting a damper on the day!

…the van breaks down and you think, "Is this REALLY an emergency, I could just walk to work for the next month. It's only a couple miles." because you don't want to disturb the BEF dreamed you were delivering pizza and you showed up at Dave's house... and you live in Illinois.

..…you look forward to Monday because it's Military discount day at the thrift store!

…you get back from eating out and figure that the one hour lunch away from work cost $8.25, 2 Arby's meals bought with coupons cost $8.66= Total cost $16.91!!!! ARGH- Could have brought PB & J!

…you associate "Another One Bites the Dust" with plasectomy. actually know what a plasectomy is.

…after breaking your little toe, you ask your husband, (while crying from the pain) to check with the Urgent Care Center to see if they are cheaper than the emergency room at the hospital.

…you give your 2-year-old and 4-year-old pennies to throw in the fountain and then feel immediate remorse for it because you could have saved those pennies and contributed to another cash envelope.

…you use cash and think about how weird that is to be doing that.

…you take off the labels off tin cans and use them for writing paper to save money.

…you overhear your 9 year old and 7 year old sons discussing a lost toy and accusing mom of selling it on e-bay.

…you spend hours, literally, making out weekly menu's based on sale papers.

…you cut off your hair to save on shampoo & conditioner.

…someone asks your kids what flavor kool aid they drink at your home and they say, "Dave Ramsey."

…you're mother looks at you like you're insane because you make $105,000 a year and you brag about a bag of socks you were lucky enough to snag at a flea market.'re family refers to you as "Dave Jr."

…you run out of deposit slips long before you run out of checks in your checking account!

…your toes are hanging off the end of your sandals because you won't get another pair until payday, only if they are in the budget, and only if they are on sale, and only if you pay cash.

…the highlight of your trip to the grocery store is reading the total savings on the receipt when you leave the store.

…your teens are embarrassed to go with you to the store because their friend works there and they know you're going to be pulling out a wad of coupons at the checkout.

…you have a nervous breakdown if you misplace your coupons.

…you contemplate how much toilet paper your family uses a day and think maybe you should have them count squares.

…you log on to My Total Money Makeover and Dave's speech starts, your six year old screams "I LOVE that guy!"

…you think about Christmas coming up in 4 months, and you know that you cannot afford it this year. You tell your kids "Christmas is a craft"!

…you tell your 17 year old daughter that she/we will not be borrowing money to send her to college. If she wants to go someplace expensive, she's got to look into scholarships!

…you actually get why these sayings are funny!

…you rent an apartment where the bedroom is the same as the living room and your bathroom door will only open partially due to the couch being in the way.

…you and your hubbie think that a 'hot' date is a trip to McD's for their 50 cent ice cream cones. go to the local grocery store and actually enjoy doing the "self checkout" and filling it full of change like a slot machine (from what you found in your car).

…you ask they pizza guy how he is and hope he says "Better than I deserve" so you can give him an extra $20.

…you get a light blue "Debt Free and Lovin' It" sticker from Dave Ramsey for doing a debt free scream and although you drive a red truck and it looks ridiculous you put it on anyway. You figure..."Hey, maybe it'll get more attention this way."

…you fantasize about the day you'll be able to scream "I'M DEBT FREE!!!"

…you and your spouse exchange the SAME Christmas card back and forth to save money.

…you go to a Live Event and start laughing at the joke before Dave gets to the punch line.

…you have "Dave" so engrained in your head that you don't realize that everyone does not know who Dave is.

…your 5 year old tells someone (a perfect stranger) "we are going to buy an RV after we are debt free"

…the bank teller says we must be doing something right because we make so many deposits

…you have to write out a check and have to pause to think HOW because it's been so long

…you seriously consider the long term savings versus the expense of a bidet or TP

…you consider a pbj a GOOD lunch as opposed to just pb

…you can't enjoy a party because you keep thinking how much the hosts spent to pull it off--and probably on a cc

…you find yourself randomly wondering HOW to save $ on feminine monthly products.

…no matter how stoic you are, tears form in your eyes when you hear someone scream "I'M DEBT FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!"

…you tell your wife you don't see any reason to go shopping, you already have a black pair of pants.

…your mom calls to say she is going on a trip this weekend to try out their new $25,000 travel trailer, your initial thought is "You have more debt than I do!" And want to ask if they paid cash for it. But think better of saying anything...

…you have gotten to the point you have eaten so much Top Ramen that you pretty much hate it... and continue to eat it anyways (the new ALPO diet. 66 ways to eat Top Ramen...)

…you just finished that quote. think all these things are funny and awesome instead of down right pathetic.

…you stand in line and check out the person at the register, if they are pulling cash or credit. If cash, you wonder if they know about Dave Ramsey.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Turning Point

So when did we really get excited about paying off our debt? I think it was when we took the plunge and decided to get rid of the Toyota. The reality set in that we were going to be paying that $31.7.52 every single month until the end of time and it was a car that we all couldn't even fit in comfortably anymore. When I ordered new car seats for Nick and moved Lauren out of the infant seat it was clear that the time had come to let go.

We enlisted the help of a family friend who worked at Midway Chevrolet in Plainwell (need a car? He's a great guy!) to help us find some family friendly transportation. We had a few options on the table: A very nice Saturn minivan, a Pontiac minivan, and a Plymouth Grand Voyager.

Our first test. What do we do? Do we buckle and get the Saturn? It did have a DVD player, bucket seats, lots of storage...headphones for the was a smooth drive. So tempting! The old Jenny and Matt would have happily signed on the bottom line and drove off into the sunset.

We took a break from the action and had lunch to go over our decision. We knew that we were going to have a small loss on the Toyota to roll into the new loan, so we had to consider that. We also considered the length of the loan, how long were we going to sign on for this?

Outstanding balance of the Toyota: $12,626.81
Trade in:$11,900
Amount financed on the Plymouth Voyager: $5500
Debt eliminated: $7,126.81

We took the difference between the 2 car payments and instantly added that to our debt snowball and went full speed into December.

September 1

So in looking back, I can see that on September 1 we took our first steps towards living like no one else. On that day, I emptied our savings account and left only $1000 towards as our "baby emergency fund". The rest of the money was put towards a smaller credit card bill that we never could seem to be done with. That was also the day that "blow" money was born, money in the pocket of ourselves to do fun things like stop and get coffee on the way to work, or grab a quick lunch at Taco Bell.

A lot of people start on the debt free wagon and decide to go full tilt and give themselves nothing to play with. In a perfect world, we would not have blow money....every last dime would go towards eliminating debt. But, as with any diet, if you starve yourself you are only setting yourself up for failure. So, by giving ourselves some blow money to play with, we ultimately spend less on crap than we did before. Once the blow money is gone, it's gone and that's all you have until the next paycheck cycle. It's really not all that bad and I love that we don't have to account to each other for it. So if I want to blow all of mine on yogurt parfaits at McDonalds, than I can and if Matt wants to blow all of his on $1.75 bottles of Diet Coke from the gas station, than he can. FREEDOM already! I love it!

Our first few months on plan weren't very eventful. We were just getting a feel for the debt snowball effect and trying to get a handle on where all of our money was going. As Dave says, you need to know where every dollar is going and what it's being spent on. A very humbling and embarassing examination of spending.

Once we had agreed that this was the direction our finances were following, we took the opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities as well. Our first order of business was to scrap our weekly "gift" to church. We were working with God's money and he's pretty clear about how that's supposed to work. He gives us 100% and asks that we work with 90% and give him back 10% joyfully. JOYFULLY--not because we have to, not because we were taught to, but because we are sons and daughters of the King and given unending love and grace. A new budget line was created and that check is the first check written every other week when it's time to do bills. We pay our Creator first and foremost, the rest of the debtors get in line behind Him.

September is good time to hop on the Ramsey wagon at our house since that's the month our annual bonus comes in from work and I get a small check for my annual raise that is retro back to July 1. We took that money and used it towards paying property taxes and to give our debt a little jumpstart.

How Did We Get Here?

How exactly did we end up in debt? Well, quite honestly we made a lot of bad decisions. We were trying to live at a much higher standard than our income allowed for and when our income went down, our spending didn't.

Student Loan: Probably one of the debts I don't regret. I should have taken out less in student loans and tried to pay some of my school expenses out of pocket, but I was just so determined to get out of college quick once I made the decision to go back and finish that I didn't want any obstacles in my way. I was in school for 18 months and it ended up costing about $18,000. The upside to that was that I was able to complete my bachelor's degree through a graduate studies program with Cornerstone University and I love being an alumni of a Christian college.

Credit Card: Where to start? I've had some element of credit card debt since I moved away from home. It started out small, just a Target credit card and a few small things out there. It sure didn't take long for things to escalate though. More bad decisions on our part and now we have taken our lumps and are chipping away at it. The 2 big chunks of debt came from lawyer bills for my brother (which he never paid us for) and for living expenses when Nicholas was born. It sounds so much better to say that we needed to live off the credit card while Matt was home with Nick, but I can own up to the fact that we did charge quite a few "therapy" items like eating out, but there was also a lot of things we charged like groceries and gas that were true necessities. About 2 years ago we consolidated all of the credit cards we had out there into one and it was about $12,000 worth.

Car Loan: When we moved to Wayland from Detroit, we needed another vehicle quickly. My sister was moving with us and she needed a vehicle to get Nathan to and from school and to be able to get around with the kids. So, we rather impulsively bought a brand new Toyota Matrix. Nothing like piling $18,000 onto our shoulders to worry about on top of a sick child, a new job, a new house. Total recipe for disaster. Even better, I unexpectedly got pregnant before Nick's first birthday and we weren't even going to be able to fit all 3 kids into the car. We managed to pull it off for quite some time before we ended up trading the Matrix in for a minivan (more on that later).

Church: Our church was embarking on a very ambitious capital campaign and I was part of the group that went out into the congregation and asked for pledges. Matt and I decided to pledge $2000 over the course of 3 years towards the campaign. Not a regrettable decision, but probably a little more than we should have done considering our finances at the time.

In the spring of 2008 I went on maternity leave when Lauren was born. We saved a considerable amount of cash so that I would be able to take the full 12 weeks off with her allowed with the Family Medical Leave Act. I was excited because I had never had the luxury of actually taking all that time off after a baby, I had always gone back to work at 6wks. I am so glad that I did have that time home with her as I was already struggling with the emotions of having a baby and having to leave her during the day to go to work.

So how did we screw that up? Let's see: We bought a Wii, a lawn tractor, and of course when I am home I find things to buy online....Oy!!

I had been hearing people talk about this Dave Ramsey guy and his debt elimination plan, but I wasn't buying it. PRIDE--My deadly sin. I had it under control, I didn't need some guy telling me that I didn't know what I was doing. DENIAL--it's not just a river in Egypt folks, it's a way of life! But God laid it on my heart that we were not in control of our finances and that we needed to step back and look at things.

Shamefully I admitted that I was not allowing God in my financial life. That was mine, not his. Again, PRIDE had reigned his ugly head and started creeping in. How can I lay my sins at the foot of the cross, pray that God watch over my children, pray that he bless my marriage, but tell him "thanks but no thanks" when it came to money. How greedy was I?

I knew that there needed to be a change and I spoke of it during my women's open share group on Monday evenings at church. Again I heard more about this Dave Ramsey guy, and he was a Christian, so I thought I would give it a shot. It couldn't hurt right? In the spirit of being frugal, I reserved his book at the library and thought I would see what it was all about.

So I go and pick up my borrowed copy of Total Money Makeover and was blown away. He's real, he's got good things to say, and it MAKES SENSE. I was trying to think of creative ways to recruit Matt into the concept when much to my amazement, he just picked up the book and started reading it! He was fired up and on board! I didn't really know what to do next because I was really gearing up for a struggle and a fight on it, I really didn't think it was going to be such an easy sell to him.

So it began.....