Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Financial Peace

Today on my way into work, I finished the last CD in the Financial Peace University (FPU) kit that a friend let me borrow. I can honestly say that it was worth every single minute I spent listening to it. I feel like I learned so much and I just hope that I can remember some of it when the time comes to move on from babystep #2. I actually am thinking that I might ask them if I can buy the set off of them since it was the 2007 edition, so I might end up with it anyways.

Listening to FPU is just what I needed today after browsing one of my favorite websites and seeing the "poor white trash" folks being torn up and down about stretching every last dollar they can and frequenting big box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. If I wanted to live at their standard of living, I could always bust out Master Card and Lady Visa and head on over to Whole Foods or D&W over here in Grand Rapids and just be wasteful in spending, but I don't think I would feel any better about myself by just spending more money. Ironically the most vocal and obnoxious probably don't wonder month to month if they'll have enough money to pay their house payment, or worry that a couple of extra prescriptions are going to push them out of the ability to make minimum payments.

I don't even know why I am letting it bother me, but it is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mini Update

I haven't really had much to update lately, so I've been quiet. The van window was replaced last Monday, it ended up costing about $250. Not as bad as I expected, and it killed me to tap into the emergency fund for it. Man I wanted to charge it on the credit card and "pay it off" next month!

Matt and I had a talk the other night as I was paying bills for month end, and I came to the realization that I have a hard time committing my money to where it should be. Case in point, Matt had charged a few things for Cub Scouts on our credit card and they wrote us a check for the stuff. My first instinct was to put the check in the bank, pay the $10 minimum to the card and then use the rest of the money for household expenses. It's that behavior that slowly killed us over the past few years and I MUST STOP.

So I bit the bullet and paid it all. Of course that leaves us dangling as to what we are going to do for the rest of the month, but it will all come together eventually.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Murphy Visits AGAIN!

We live in a 3 bedroom home, so you would think that Murphy wouldn't want to come and visit so often, but alas, that is not the case. He seems to visit us more and more often these days.

So what did Murphy have in store for us this weekend?

I wanted to take the kids for a walk on Saturday to run our Angel Food order up to church, and when I went out to the van to get the stroller, I noticed when I lifted the back door up that glass fell on my head. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a bullet (BB?) hole in the glass!! Someone had randomly decided to shoot at our van in our driveway and shattered the glass! Unbelievable!

Thankfully we have our emergency fund, and we can cash flow most of it, but come on already! I lived in Detroit how many years and never had this much bad stuff happen, and I move out to cow country and suddenly someone is driving up and down our street shooting at cars? Are you KIDDING ME? When we called the police to come and do the report, he told us that he had been on our block already that day because we were not the only ones. At least we know it's random and not that someone has some beef with us.

I was able to get a decent price ($250) to get it replaced, so we are going to do that rather than report it to our insurance. Our insurance deductible is $400 so we have nothing to gain by reporting it. I was able to schedule the appointment online and they'll be out sometime today and fix it right in the parking lot at my job.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Living Like No One Else

Today I had the chance to share with a few ladies at church about how we are really living like no one else right now. As in, we are clearly focused on eliminating our debts, committing our finances to following Christian principles, and living a frugal lifestyle. It's a whole shift in thinking and living, and it's honestly not for the faint at heart, or for someone trying to keep up with the Joneses.

So what does it mean to live as a member of the Ward family? It means:

1. Living off 90% of our income because our tithe check is written before all others.

2. Coupon clipping, sale shopping, and menu planning to squeeze every last penny we can from our grocery budget.

3. Participating in Angel Food Ministries to round out our grocery shopping.

4. Clothes are never bought at full price. I scour the clearance racks and buy ahead sizes when I see something I just can't pass up. Lauren already has a jacket for next winter because I found one for $7 on clearance at JcPenney. Bought now for $7 instead of the first snowfall for $50. Now that I think about it, all 3 of my kids have winter jackets ready to go for next winter! I've spent $17 on jackets: $10 Nathan, $7 Lauren, and Nick has Nathan's old jacket that was bought for $10 about 6 years ago.

5. I pack my lunch for work and bring that along with me daily. There are a lot of days where I have meetings that provide lunch, so that's always a bonus. When I get things like cookies or other snacks like that, I toss them in my purse and bring them home for Nathan to take in his lunch. I certainly don't need the cookies!

6. I cut my dryer sheets in half. I tried using a bunch of other things in my laundry and nothing worked to eliminate the static electricity. So, the best I can do is cut them in half and buy the Sam's Club brand ones.

7. We traded in my Toyota that had over $12,000 still owed on it and bought a much cheaper vehicle. Not only do I love my minivan, we can all sit very comfortably in it, something we could not do in the Toyota.

8. Economize on gas. Everytime we get in the car to go somewhere, we think about what else we can combine into the trip to save us a bit on gas. If we go into town for something, it is not a one store trip. In a few weeks, I am combining a trip for work into a visit with my family, and that is going to work out very well for us!

9. We don't go on vacations and instead find fun things to do around town. We live near a beautiful lake, so people come HERE to vacation, why would we leave? Eventually we'll go on a few family vacations I am sure, but not until we can pay for them 100% with cash.

10. Every dollar spent is intentional and maximized. If I am buying gas, I see if it's cheaper to go to Speedway since I build up Speedway rewards points. If I am buying something online, I go through MyPoints to earn points. At the end of the year, we cash in all of our points and use them towards gifts. This past Christmas we were able to get a $25 gift card to Omaha Steaks, 2 $10 gift cards to Panera Bread, a $10 gift card to Cracker Barrell, and a $25 gift card to Lowe's. We're already on track to pull a repeat performance this year at Christmas, I am pretty excited!

So anyways, that's just a tiny glimpse into the ways we've found to cut the budget bare bones and not rely on debt to sustain our family. It's not always glamorous, but we know that it will not be this way forever and we'll have some breathing room soon and that makes us even more determined to be debt free forever even sooner!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Just a quick ticker update now that I factored in the new car loan amount.

More Progress

Matt and I are still making progress on our goal of being debt free. It's just hard to claim victory right now because we are just in a low point. Once his paychecks start picking up more with the new camp season we'll really be able to attack things full force.

One thing we did do this past week though was we made the decision to downgrade our cell phone plan. I compared our last 3 cell phone bills and saw that we were hardly touching our minutes and that I was just being wasteful with text messaging because it was included in our plan. By downgrading our plan we'll save about $20/month.

I am waiting on some mystery shopping payments to come in, and I am going to dump that right into our snowball for the month.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Diaper Deal

So via Savings Angel, I found out about a GREAT diaper deal this week at Walgreens. So knowing that I was going to load up, I recruited some friends at work to print off coupons from me since there is a 2 copy limit from the website ( per IP address. I work in an office with over a hundred people, and when there are times like this, I am happy to have so many IP addresses to choose from!

What I ended up with:
8 packs Huggies Supreme
2 packs Huggies wipes (182ct)
1 tube of Colgate (and it had a free travel size with it!)
1 Glade Plug dual air freshner
1 Glade sensor air freshner
2 bottles of Garnier Fructus shampoo/conditioner
5 packs of Eclipse gum

Total spent: $35.02
Total saved: $115.83

The Huggies are regular priced for $12 per pack, and Nick can only wear size 6 Huggies because he's so big for his age. So I bought 7 packs of the size 6's and 1 pack of the size 4's for Lauren knowing she'll be wearing those soon enough. Since this deal is so hot, the pickings were pretty slim, so I was happy with what I was able to get my hands on! I am debating on going for another round of the stores later this week even...We'll see!

Weekly Shopping

I wanted to post my amazing diaper deal today, but I misplaced 2 of my receipts, so I will have to do that tomorrow. It's a great one, probably one of the best ones ever in fact.

But what I will post is my Meijer shopping trip that I did today on my lunch hour. I ran into a co-worker there and she was amazed at the fist full of coupons I had. I had quite a bit in my cart, and I told her that I was probably up to about $10 by that point, which even that blew her away.

Items purchased:
3lbs of bananas, 1 bottle of organic ketchup, 3 2ltrs of Pepsi, 2 boxes of brownie mix, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 4 boxes of Ziplock bags, 4 boxes of Fiber One bars, 4 boxes of Curves granola bars, 4 boxes of Strawberry Yogurt Cheerios,

Total before coupons and sales: $60.79
Total spent: $20.61

On my way into work, I made a quick stop to Hardings to pick up yogurt that was on sale this week and came away with:

7 cups of Dannon yogurt, 3 bags of Chex mix, 1 bag of croutons

Total spent before coupons: $7.77
Total spent: $3.77

Yes, we are a pretty breakfast heavy household, in fact I think my kids would eat breakfast food for dinner every night of the week if I let them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Murphy Again.....

Dave certainly tells it straight when he says that once you get on the path to living debt free, you are instantly inviting Murphy (as in Murphy's Law) to visit you on a regular basis. February was a killer month with car accidents and sickness, and here we are on March 2 with more of the sick!

Yesterday I had to go to Urgent Care after a car seat installation project gone horribly wrong. Thankfully one $10 copay covered the visit plus tetanus shot. But today Matt took Lauren and Nick to the Dr ($10 each) and Lauren STILL has a touch of pneumonia, and she also has an ear infection ($60 in prescriptions!). So in less than 24 hours, we've paid $90 out of pocket just in SICK and it's only March 2.

Looks like I am going to have to really kick up my mystery shopping this month if we are going to stay on plan.