September 19, 2009

Net Worth

It's been a while since I've posted, the summer has been a whirlwind of adventure and activity and to tell you the truth there hasn't been a ton of progress on the debt elimination front. Although, I am reaching the 9-month mark of no credit card use!

I realized today I have never figured out my net worth. I did a (rough) calculation today and I am in the positive net worth zone. Here is how it works out:

Assets: Car $8,000, House (equity) $7,000, Stuff (very rough estimate) $1,500, Savings $650, 401K $4,150.

Liabilities: Car Loan $3,332.96, Student Loans $13,022.47

Subtract liabilities from assets and my total net worth is: $4,954.57

Also worth noting, I updated my NCN chart and I have increased my percentage of pay-off by a couple points this summer, I'll take it!

Hope everyone is doing well with their financial goals and enjoying the journey.

May 25, 2009

Been doing some thinking...

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my original debt elimination focus. First and foremost was credit card debt, then car loan, then student loan followed by bulking up my emergency fund. But for a variety of reasons I believe it is in my best interest to rearrange my priorities.

My new plan of actions (which I will try until the end of August to see how it goes) is:

1.) Save for the summer activity expenses: wedding gifts, shower gifts, birthday gifts, road-trip to Wisconsin, PRH certification courses and exam. It all adds up but makes for a very fun and financially reasonable summer. Plus, I'm learning the value of being financially prepared for the "there's always something" expenses that will occur for the rest of my life. My guesstimate for the summer activity fund is $800. Not a bad investment for both my personal and professional life.
2.) Build emergency fund up to $3,000. I can't shake the possibility of the unthinkable, i.e. losing my job. If I lose my job I will likely look back and wish I had not used all my money to pay off debt that was not really costing me anything, i.e. my auto loan.
3.) Start contributing to 401K once again. At the point of having my emergency fund saved, I will feel more free to invest in my retirement and will be better able to contribute a much larger percentage of my income than before.
4.) Make large payments on student loans. I may try and do this simultaneously with building the emergency fund, I am saving myself money on interest by focusing on this loan and trying to pay it off early.
5.) Make regular payments on my auto loan and have it paid off by July 2010. Rejoice like crazy when it is paid and re-direct the extra $285.53/month to student loan debt.

Here are some reasons I've decided to switch my focus:

1.) I took care of all of the interest on my vehicle in the first few years of the loan, so it makes more sense to focus paying down debt with some interest saving potential.
2.) My part-time job has decreased an average of 2 hours per week ($20). I've found that I can manage this job long-term but that any more than 6-7 hours a week was starting to burn me out a bit. It's more advantageous for me to do something I can maintain and stick with it for a while. I also do not want my part-time job to affect my productivity at the "real job."
3.) Heck, variety is the spice of life and I think sub-consciously switching my focus will re-invigorate me.

Here's to the excitement of re-prioritizing!

May 3, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks...

I received a letter from PNC, the bank that owns my recently-paid-off credit card balance. The letter stated: "We are pleased to increase your credit limit to $12,000." Hmmm, could it be they noticed I haven't had any new transactions in months? That I have completely paid off the balance and plan on keeping it that way? That they will never ever again be able to reap the financial rewards of charging me interest?

You can't full me PNC Visa, I'm on to you. Thanks, but no thanks for the shady attempt to steer me once again down the debt path. I prefer the road less traveled.

April 29, 2009

April Financial Goals Update

It's been almost 2 months since my last goals update and a lot has happened since then. I'll start with the bad and end with the good.

Thumbs Down:

1.) $500 for unexpected car repair

2.) $350 for new tires, this was expected but not for another month or so...had to dip into the emergency fund a bit.

Thumbs Up:

1.) Paid off all of my credit card debt

2.) Began mega-payments on my auto loan, I put a $900 dent in the loan just a couple weeks ago.

3.) I am expecting my state income tax return in the next couple of weeks, this should get my emergency fund back up to $1,000.

4.) Haven't purchased anything with credit since January 2009.

As far as my deadlines for paying off all non-mortgage debt, my guess is that everything has been pushed back 2 months. It's still too early to tell how far off track my unexpected car repairs have put me. My original goal for the auto loan repayment was July, but I think September is more realistic.

As the weather is getting warmer, I find myself thinking about all the fun adventures the summer could bring; some prospects for a couple weekend trips will set me back a bit. I will forever struggle with the balancing act of paying off debt yet still allowing myself some freedom to enjoy life.

Here's hoping for another mega-payment on my auto loan in May!

April 12, 2009

Frugal Recipe: Poor Woman's Mocha

One of my methods of debt reduction is to eliminate unnecessary items. Number one on this list is gourmet coffee drinks. As a means of reducing the pain involved in eliminating this luxury, I buy gourmet coffee grounds and brew it at home for a fraction of the price. Below is a recipe for what I call "Poor Woman's Mocha". It is actually very simple, but I am surprised at how many people have commented on what a great idea it is, so here you go!

1.) One 8-12oz cup of coffee (I prefer Starbucks)

2.) Once packet of hot chocolate mix. (Aldi sells an 8-pack for $0.99)

3) 1/2 cup skim milk ( you could also use half and half or any other milk product)

4.) 1 tablespoon powdered creamer (Aldi sells a large container of this for $1.79)

Combine all ingredients, stir until dissolved, and enjoy! FYI, I find that one packet of hot chocolate mix goes a long way. Depending on how sweet you like your coffee, you can likely use one pack for 16-20oz of coffee.

April 3, 2009

Preparing for the worst...

What if I get laid off? It is a scary thought, I know. I've been re-affirmed at work that this will not happen and my job is secure...but this past week a co-worker was let go as a part of a reduction in force. Individuals are completely, utterly blind-sided when they are part of a reduction. And believe me when I say that I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

This experience has really encouraged me to prepare for the worst and put together an action plan for possible lay-off. If I were laid-off tomorrow (which wouldn't happen because it's Sunday, but you get the idea.) what would I do?

First, take into account that I have $1,000 in my emergency fund, I would receive 2 1/2 weeks of severance (enough to get me through almost 1 month of bills), and 5 weeks of PTO pay-out (enough to get me through 2 months of bills), I would also be eligible for 6 months of unemployment = to 60% of previous monthly salary.

I would:

1.) Stop all current debt-elimination goals and focus on stretching every penny I have to keep food on the table and a roof over my head.

2.) Stop going out to eat.

3.) Stop purchasing wine/alcoholic beverages.

4.) Stop all forms of entertainment.

5.) Cancel gym membership

6.) End cell phone plan and get a home phone (already have land-line established thru Zoomtown)

7.) Stay current on all bills

8.) Sell more items on Ebay (jewelry that is not of sentimental value, cd's, etc.)

9.) Pick up more hours at my part time job

10.) Purchase Anthem individual health insurance to stay minimally covered

11.) Cut back immensely on car usage (shouldn't be too difficult since commute to work is eliminated)

12.) Refrain from purchasing any non-essential items (clothing, make-up, shoes, etc.)

13.) Cook from scratch as much as possible.

14.) Lower thermostat and go without air conditioning this summer.

I'm keeping in mind that if I were to be laid off it could take several months to find another, comparable job and that my cut-backs would need to be somewhat long-term so that I could get back on track and continue with debt elimination once a new job is secured.

If I have no luck after 3 months of seriously looking for a new job, I would open myself up to looking for job opportunities outside of my chosen field of work as long as it took care of my monthly bills and provided health coverage. I would work at this job until I could secure something once again in my field.

I think my plan is solid. I am confident that I have at least 3-4 months worth of living expenses taken care of. I could put more into savings now, just to be safe, but I do not want to live in fear. I am determined to continue on through these uncertain times and learn as many life-lessons as I can along the way.

March 30, 2009

Accountability- When You Least Expect It!

I was at a happy hour on Friday and it was time to pay the bill. I pulled out my check-card and my best friend says "Where are your envelopes?". Uhhhhhh. Truth be told, I have not gotten paid from my part-time job for the hours worked last week. This money gets divied up and goes into my envelopes so I can pay strictly with cash for gas, food, and entertainment. No cash = no envelope system.

This is the first time in two and a half months I have gone sans envelope system. Sure, it's not great that I resorted to the check card, but the money does come directly out of my checking account and my transactions are limited. It's not like in previous months when I would check my online account balance obsessively to keep track of my transactions (here I go justifying things again:). Sure, I could have made a cash withdrawal and put that money into my envelopes, but honestly, I feel like these practices have become habits.

This habit has become so consistent, in fact, that people are taking notice and holding me accountable. Will I always use my envelope system in the future no matter what? You bet I will!

So here is my money memoirs advice for the day: Pay with cash and let them see you do it. Sometimes it is difficult to hold ourselves accountable 100% of the time, every once in a while we need the help of friends.