Goals for 2018: Counting the Cost

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As I’ve mentioned, I subscribe to Dave’s YouTube channel, and just as he did last year, this year he talked about goal setting. I printed out the Goal Tracker worksheet again and began writing in my goals for 2018. Last year, we didn’t reach all of our financial goals, but we did reach some of them:

  • Build our initial 2017 budget spreadsheets. – goal met Dec 2016!
  • Pay off at least one of our five remaining debt balances.Paid off two of them before the flood hit and then added one back
  • Increase our giving category by at least 1%. – increased by 2%

Even though this isn’t the progress I was hoping for, it is still progress despite the 2017 we had. We’re moving on and praying 2018 is better.

Dave says, “You’re gonna go where you look”, and he’s absolutely right. I wasn’t a competitive water skier like Dave, but when I was young, my dad set about to teach me to ride a bike. I hit every mailbox on our street because I kept fixating on them (afraid I would hit them). Finally, my dad said, “Stop looking where you don’t want to go and start looking where you do want to go!” I did end up learning to ride a bike, but I had a lot of bruises and scrapes till I listened and changed my focus.

Well, we’ve changed our focus. With bruises and scrapes in tow, the flood was a wake-up call and we need to get radical about some things. With the added debt incurred last year, our initial goals were pushed back even further. Then, when we moved back into the house, it made us sick how much extra space and extra stuff we have. Something about living in a tiny hotel for months on end will do that to you.

Still, we wanted to keep the house because it seemed “easier” to put off our goals a little longer. Then, we decided to run some numbers and realized putting off retirement investing for even another year could potentially cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars… and two years, well, the number was ridiculous! We weighed three options – two of which would allow us to keep the house, but would mean we would spend the last couple years of our teenagers’ high school careers working two jobs in a big house with all our stuff sold off… and would still cost us hundreds of thousands in retirement savings potential. The third option is to sell the house and take advantage of the equity to catapult us ahead in the baby steps. Of course, all three would come with their own set of sacrifices and we needed to weigh what was most important to us from every angle.

Dave says you should have a big why. Seeing the numbers and writing up the pro/con lists really changed our perspective. We want a different legacy than the one we’ve been careening toward. Hanging onto the house does not take us where we want to go. In fact, it potentially keeps us stuck in old patterns. It isn’t worth the mental, relational, emotional, physical, or monetary costs to keep it. So, we’ve written a new plan:

Write the vision; and make it plain… [Habakkuk 2:2]

FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2018

  • Increase giving by another 2%
    • Time: By March
    • Will use part of our annual merit raise to accomplish this. 
  • Build our initial 2018 budget spreadsheets through August. – done!
    • July – Complete through December.
  • Have monthly budget meetings with husband.
    • Will set an appointment for these each month.
  • Reduce the debt using the debt snowball and current payments (ave. reduction of $1,200/mo)
    • Time: till house sells (see below)
    • Will accomplish this with bi-weekly zero-budgeting.
  • Downsize
    • Time: By August
    • List house on the market by June.
      • Purge stuff from every corner of the house – have already begun.
      • Sell and donate as much of our stuff as we can – have already begun.
      • Cash flow repairs and home preparations – waiting for bonus & tax info to set budget for these.
    • Find a smaller place and pay cash to replace furniture.
  • Pay off remaining debt, fully fund emergency fund, and invest 15% in retirement accounts
    • Time: @ closing – hoping to reach baby step #4 no later than August
    • Getting through baby step #4 is more important to us than whether we rent or buy for our next dwelling. 
  • Cash flow college expenses for two kids.
  • Rework budget and set new goals once we move – update this list as we go!

I plan to continue posting our monthly progress updates, so stay tuned!

 

 

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Baby Steppin’: December 2017

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Fall of 2016, we went through a Financial Peace University Class… and then life hit hard from April 2017-September 2017. So, we’re picking up the pieces and resuming the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. I cannot believe a new year is upon us – kind of feels like we skipped most of this one.

Baby Step #1 

We replenished this as quickly as we could and our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,002.86

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
March 2017: $34,056.58 (-$2,028.07) – projected payoff at this point was – Feb 2019
During the chaos the debt increased:  $62,211.73* (+$28,155.15)
December 2017: $47,172.13 (-$15,039.60)

Speed Bumps (rather, cliff diving into a canyon) Encountered

  • Flooding, Dishonest companies, Complementary overcharges, Car trouble, Medical bills, Graduation, and Stupidity, Oh My! – Not going to rehash this yet again… very stressful seven months that I hope to never relive.

Things We’re Thankful For

  • God’s mercy is new every morning – Thank you, Jesus!
  • Surprise Bonuses – We received two surprise bonuses during this period of mayhem. This is not normal for the company and totally a God thing.
  • HSA Account – It took almost every dime we had in HSA, but it covered the medical stuff. Now we’re trying to rebuild the account.

Well, that was that… on to the next billing cycle.

*Does not include everything – some stuff we were able to “cash flow” or “trade labor” as it came up.

Working the Plan Doesn’t Make You Bullet Proof

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Obviously I’ve been away for a bit. Two days after my last post, all three floors of our home flooded due to a pipe fail in the middle of the night. The water ran for about two hours before it woke one of the kids.

We would spend four months in a hotel dealing with insurance adjusters, contractors, and a long string of other unfortunate events, all of which cost money (of course).

At first, we clung to our newly acquired Financial Peace skills. We were determined to keep going, even though the thousand dollar emergency fund wasn’t even close to enough to cover the deductible, much less the other emergencies which occurred during that time (seriously felt like we were being used for target practice).

About a month in, exhausted from arguing and pushing back against the onslaught, things began to unravel. It seemed everyone wanted money. Did you know people swarm (and charge more) when they hear “insurance claim”?

We felt like a dying animal, sideswiped on the side of the road… the vultures circled and picked us apart… finally, we gave up because we didn’t have any fight left. We just let go. Our motto became, “It costs what it costs, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Out came the credit cards and with them, our old spending and eating habits (hello, take-out).

We gained debt and extra pounds.

We’re finally back in the house… and we hate it. We upgraded some things in the process of the rebuild that we thought we just had to do while everything was ripped apart. It felt ridiculous at the time not to, but now we are saddled with even more debt and a house we can’t stand the sight of.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous. It’s just that, the things we thought would “make us happy”,or were a “must”, have actually ended up contributing to our misery. We feel more suffocated than ever, which is ironic after living in a hotel for four months and now being back in a house with more room than we know what to do with…. especially now that we have another kid away at school.

Thankfully, God has helped me immensely with my anger. I’m beginning to see some purpose and I’m finally able to say I’m at least thankful we had insurance (they paid well over $100K total in this whole mess – ouch). I’m also very aware that if we’d had a fully funded emergency fund this probably would have gone way different – even more incentive to reach that baby step as quickly as possible.

I’m sure I’ll be unpacking more lessons in the months to come, but the husband and I have realized it’s time to face the financial music.

Eeek!

We know it’s bad, we just aren’t sure how bad (which is what happens when you go into denial). With what I do know, I don’t see any way we’ll meet the goals I had set for this year, but hopefully we can at least stop the bleeding.

So what’s our next step? Give ourselves a financial check-up, do our zero budget, and replenish the baby emergency fund.

A Bag of Change

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There’s just something a little embarrassing about counting out pennies and dimes at the register – at least, that’s how I felt till a trip to the hardware store the other day.

I always hated using cash because, like writing a check, it felt like it held up the line to count it all out. It feels like people are thinking, “What era are you from? Where’s your card?” I didn’t want to be lumped in with those crazy couponers (used to be one of those too) who would take an hour to check out on triple coupon day.

Well, the other day we needed to wash the cars (don’t want to leave salt on them), but the only hose we had that reached the driveway busted over the summer after many years of service. So, we counted the cost of taking the cars to the car wash or buying a new hose. We decided to buy the hose, but where would we get the money?

Enter the giant bag of change. That’s right, we stood at the self-checkout and deposited about $20 worth of change (several dollars of that in just pennies) into the register one coin at a time. Thankfully, they weren’t busy, but it was so humbling to be standing there with the husband as we took turns dropping in the change.

No one made fun of us, but we got some pretty huge grins on the way out. After that experience, I don’t remotely have a problem digging change out of my purse when I go to the store. I’ll say, “Hang on, I’ve got the 38 cents.”

Kind of brings new meaning to the title of this blog.

Baby Steppin’: March 2017

Last Fall, we went through a Financial Peace University Class. We are continuing the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. I cannot believe we are three months into the new year already. We have another Senior graduating in May and I guess that’s what’s making this seem to fly by. Here’s March:

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,009.60

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
March 2017: $34,056.58 (-$2,028.07)
(current projected payoff – Feb 2019)

Notes: The projected payoff moved up another month!

EveryDollar 2017 Challenge Update

  • Build our initial 2017 budget spreadsheets. – goal met Dec 2016!
  • Continue having at least 1 budget committee meeting per month. – 4/12
  • Continue giving every dollar a name each payday (zero-budgeting). – done in Mar
  • Pay down our Debt balance by at least $18,892.86. – $11,294.60 so far
  • Pay off at least one of our five remaining debt balances.goal met Feb 2017 and again in March 2017 – down to 3 now!
  • Increase our giving category by at least 1%. – increased by 2%

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Diet Changes – Well, I started having chest pain and some other icky symptoms so we decided we needed to clean up our diet a bit more. We’re still adjusting, haven’t gotten all the kinks worked out yet, and we went over the grocery budget significantly. (-$376.97)

I’m rather disappointed about going over the grocery budget so badly. We’re trying to cut so much and that was a big blow. I am feeling better physically, so I guess something good came from it, but I need to figure out how to do this healthier eating thing cheaper.

Oh, and we finally paid off the orthodontist! So, we are down to 3 remaining balances (from 10 originally).

Well, that was March… on to the next billing cycle.

Baby Steppin’: February 2017

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Last Fall, we went through a Financial Peace University Class. We are continuing the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. The new year has brought changes to our insurance costs and annual income. The pay raise kicked in the middle of the month. Here’s our progress as of the end of February:

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,009.54

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
(current projected payoff – March 2019)

Notes: We were able to throw a nice sized chunk of cash at the debt and knocked another 4 months off the projected payoff date!

EveryDollar 2017 Challenge Update

  • Build our initial 2017 budget spreadsheets. – goal met Dec 2016!
  • Continue having at least 1 budget committee meeting per month. – 3/12
  • Continue giving every dollar a name each payday (zero-budgeting). – done in Feb
  • Pay down our Debt balance by at least $18,892.86. – $9,266.53 so far
  • Pay off at least one of our five remaining debt balances.goal met Feb 2017!
  • Increase our giving category by at least 1%. – increased by 2%

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Hard Drive Crash – The hard drive we use to backup everything started having issues. So, we had to replace it before it crashed. (-$50.87)

Didn’t dip into the emergency fund for the speed bumps this month. We did have to float some payments on medical stuff until the HSA reimbursed us, but that turned out to be less of an issue than I thought. We did get a bonus and a little back from the IRS (which was a surprise), hence the dramatic drop in debt.

We were able to get rid of another credit card balance because of the bonus. This wasn’t even the debt I was talking about eliminating this year when I set the goals. However, since we had a chance to wipe out Chase now, I took it (really don’t like that bank).

I spent some time gathering numbers for our assets and liabilities and much to my surprise, our net worth is actually in the positive. Looks like we’re just shy of $60K… $100K here we come – ha ha!

Well, that was February… on to the next billing cycle.

 

Baby Steppin’: January 2017

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Last November, we finished going through a Financial Peace University Class. We are continuing the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. The new year has brought changes to our insurance costs and annual income. The increase in costs have kicked in, but the increase in income hasn’t. Here’s our progress as of the end of January:

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,009.41

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
(current projected payoff – July 2019)

Notes: Just plugging along this month, but big changes are coming! At least I hope so!

EveryDollar 2017 Challenge Update

  • Build our initial 2017 budget spreadsheets. – goal met Dec 2016!
  • Continue having at least 1 budget committee meeting per month. – 2/12
  • Continue giving every dollar a name each payday (zero-budgeting). – done in Jan
  • Pay down our Debt balance by at least $18,892.86. – $1,536.52 so far
  • Pay off at least one of our five remaining debt balances.
  • Increase our giving category by at least 1%.

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Printer – The printer (10 years old) has been hanging on by a thread for a while. As I’m gearing up to resume teaching one day a week, I need a working printer. We have had a color printer for about 17 years now, but after looking at our options, we decided not to shell out the almost $500 (and that was “on sale”) it would take to replace ours. We went with a black/white model that should still be dependable and do the bulk of our printing. That decision took weeks to make as we kept going back and forth. In the end, we decided to live differently than we have in the past by choosing a printer that would constantly remind us that sacrifices are necessary to get where we want to go. I’ll have to go to Staples to print in color, but it will make me really ponder whether color printing is necessary. Once we settled on what we were going to purchase, we hunted down the best deal for a new one (thought we found a used one on Craig’s list but that didn’t work out). (-$216.98 – included shipping and extra toner cartridge)
  • Switching Cell Service – Here’s that cancellation fee I mentioned last month. Ouch. Hopefully this is the last of the expenses for this switch and we can start throwing the difference in the lower bill toward debt. (-$244.99)
  • School Fee – I thought we had already paid the 14 year old’s annual “miscellaneous fee” for the local college program she’s in, apparently not. (-$82.00)

We got a bonus during this month, but it arrived too late to show up on the CC statements, so it will show up in February. We also spent hours trying to forecast what our tax bill is going to be. I’m not going to go into politics here, but let’s just say the IRS has had it’s hand deeper in our pockets for the last few years (and no, we aren’t making much more – they’re just taking more). Anyway, we needed to know how much of the bonus to hold onto for paying the tax bill. I guess one good thing about college tuition is being able to deduct it, because it looks like we might not owe anything more come April 15 (Lord, please let it be so). Of course, we won’t know for sure until we get all the official documents the middle of next month.

When I saw the bonus, and the potential that we may not have to hold it for taxes, I got really excited! This could mean we’ll pay off at least two more debts instead of just one this year. So, I ran some more numbers and came up with more areas we could slash the budget even further. I am hopeful this will mean we can move up our overall payoff date significantly. All of this should take effect in February.

Well, that was January… on to the next billing cycle!

Becoming a “Dave Ramsey” Junkie

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I am absolutely amazed at how making the decision not to co-sign on a student loan for our son is transforming our financial vision. It is as though standing up and saying “NO” to the norm has fanned our “live like no one else” flame. We exercised our financial muscles with that decision and grew stronger as a result. It is easier to say no to other things now, but I’ve found myself saying “yes” too.

Which leads me to the whole point of this post, which is to say, I think I’m becoming a “Dave Ramsey” junkie. Can you “crave Dave”? I don’t know for sure, but the husband chuckles every time he comes into my office and hears the Dave Ramsey Show playing. He’s calling me “one of those people”. I’m not sure what people he’s talking about but I’m choosing to believe they must be intelligent genius types. I might be a little biased… maybe.

He’s one to talk though because the other night we were trying to decide what to do during our “at-home-date-night” and he suggested we listen to some of Dave’s Rants. If he comes upstairs to print something, he’ll stop and listen to the show for a minute or two before heading back to work. If he hears me burst out laughing, he’ll come in and ask what Dave said that was so funny.

Joking aside, the biggest benefit I’m getting from listening to Dave and reading his posts is the motivation and encouragement to press on and do this thing!

I get teary-eyed almost every time I hear someone scream “I’m debt freeeeee!” I get inspired by the turning points. I become wistfully excited over the millionaire hours. And the rants, well, those are intervention moments that recovering debt-addicts need… plus they are sometimes funny.

It’s like entertainment and education all rolled into one. And let’s face it, I’m probably not going to tune in if it isn’t at least a little funny because shoveling your way out of debt is heavy enough all by itself.

Nah, I’m not addicted to Dave Ramsey, but I sure am thankful for the message he’s spreading. Oops, gotta go, my phone just told me “The Dave Ramsey Show is LIVE now”…

Guilt Driven Stupidity

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The son is home from college for the holiday break and he has walked into our new “Dave Ramsey” world. “Some things have changed around here, son,” we told him before he flew home.

None of this information is a surprise as we’ve had him go through the Foundations in Personal Finance Homeschool lessons, but even while he was learning these things, we kept saying that college loans might be necessary.

Our kids have known for a bit now that we failed to save for their college education. They’ve known they would need to work. What they didn’t know was that we would change how we felt about college loans and co-signing (which Dave says to never do).

A man lacking common sense gives a pledge
And becomes guarantor [for the debt of another] in the presence of his neighbor. ~ Proverbs 17:18 (AMP)

We’ve already talked to our younger kids about these things, but the son has been gone the past few months and unaware of the drastic changes in our thought processes.

After one semester of college, the money is about to run out sometime during next semester. We think we’ll be able to cover the shortage, but after that, there’s nothing. Fortunately he’s going to a fairly inexpensive school, but it is still more than we can afford for the duration.

The son has expected us to co-sign on the loan needed to continue, but the more we’ve thought about it, the more adamant we are that debt is not the answer.

Signing that paperwork would mean shackling our boy (and us) with thousands in debt for years to come. As we thought about the numbers and about what Dave teaches, we realized we would be hurting more than helping.

As I was praying over this, I realized I was only struggling with it because I felt guilty. We hadn’t been good stewards and our “poor kids” would have to “suffer” for our mistakes. Then I thought back to all the times we’ve made stupid money decisions out of guilt. Our credit card statements over the years can attest to many guilt purchases. I knew we had to break the cycle at some point.

It felt as though this loan was a crossroads of sorts. If we sign, we continue down the wide, well-trodden path littered with sacrificed dreams and futures. If we don’t sign, we make a dramatic shift in direction. The path will be narrow and feel stifling at times, but the reward has greater potential in the long-run.

Would we choose to “live like no one else” or not? Gulp. Would we stand up for our beliefs and guide our kids through this minefield? Or, would we follow the trail of debt-laden lemmings right over the cliff?

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    have given your pledge for a stranger,
if you are snared in the words of your mouth,
    caught in the words of your mouth,
then do this, my son, and save yourself,
    for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:
    go, hasten,[a] and plead urgently with your neighbor.
Give your eyes no sleep
    and your eyelids no slumber;
save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
    like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ~ Proverbs 6:1-5 (ESV)

I went to the husband with these thoughts and some scripture. He agreed it was the right decision; although, neither of us liked the prospect of telling the son.

Last night he had a long talk with our boy and was surprised by how receptive and understanding he was. There is a work-study option at the school, but we won’t know for a bit if he gets into the program. If he does, his education will be covered, if not, we go back to the drawing board.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ~ Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)

Baby Steppin’: December 2016

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Last month we finished going through a Financial Peace University Class. We are continuing the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. We’re not far into the process but we’re making huge strides. Here’s our progress to this point:

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund took a hit but we were able to refund it by the end of the month: $1,009.34

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,351.18 (-$2,275.97)
(current projected payoff – July 2019)

Notes: I did throw some extra money at the debt, but I should have held onto it till the end of the month to be sure we didn’t need it to cover unplanned expenses.

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Car Trouble – This was not a good month in the life of the van. It died in the parking lot of a local store. The tow truck guy was able to get it started (temporary) but because the front left tire was also flat (a whole other story), I couldn’t drive it to the mechanic. So, it had to be towed. Then, of course, there was the bill from the mechanic. The tire was under warranty at another shop, it held air long enough to get there from the mechanic. They refused to replace it for a second time and patched it, again. Of course, this would happen while the husband was out of town. Ten days later, the tire blew while our teenage daughter was driving to work in a snow storm. She spun off the road. Everyone was fine, and other than the tire, there was no damage, but it was another day of headaches. Fortunately, they replaced the tire for free this time. (-$132.82)
  • Switching Cell Service – We are starting the process of switching to another cell provider to save money. Last month we covered some of this cost, but a little more was required this month. We still have a cancellation fee that will show up in January. (-$100)
  • Christmas – I definitely didn’t budget properly for Christmas despite saving for it all year. This just goes to show that I haven’t been aware of what we actually spend on this holiday in a while. I have adjusted our budget to reflect this so hopefully we won’t be short next year. (-$183.37)
  • Food – I didn’t budget adequately for holiday eating and dining out again this month. Plus, the college kid is home and I should have planned for that too. (-$161.65)

If I hadn’t sent an extra payment to one of the credit card companies, I would have had the cash on hand to pay for the car trouble. As it was, I ended up dipping into the emergency fund to cover it. I didn’t think we would be able to refund it before the end of the month, but the Lord worked it out where we could. Overall, utility bills were higher this month too.

Well, that was December… on to the next billing cycle!