Friday, January 30, 2009

Who Knew?

Murphy showed up at our house this week...and it doesn't look as though he plans on leaving anytime soon...

Hubby informed he he is no longer in love with me and hasn't been for a while. He wants a divorce. I knew we were having trouble and that's why we were returning to a marriage counselor, to get guidance to return the peace and happiness in our lives. I had NO IDEA he was so unhappy.

We have been through many trials in our marriage, we held on and stormed through each one together. Each time we became stronger and happier.

We have five my eyes we do not have the RIGHT to get divorced. When we got married we already had three children between us. We made a promise to each other and more importantly to them that we would be the one thing that no matter what they could always count on.

As a mother, my job is to make this trauma have the least possible impact on our children...and it's hard. I have to suck up my hurt, anger, fear, and disappointment and tell them "Mom and Dad decided..." To say "Dad decided..." would poison them against their father or alienate them from me as they try to "stick up" for him. Either way, they need to be able to work through this on their terms, not mine...

One of the first things I worried about was the bedtime ritual. Every night it is Dad who gets #4 and #5 ready for bed...jammies, book, and tucked in...something he started when #4 was very young...that's "Dad's time." I asked the marriage counselor if it was appropriate to have him come over at bedtime to continue this ritual. As long as it does not cause any undue stress to either of us or the children.

So far it has worked wonderfully for #4. He goes to bed as he always has, no arguments, no getting up multiple times, just right to bed. For #5 it's a different story. Of all the kids, he is definitely taking this separation the hardest. He is 14 months and has absolutely lost his compass. When Dad comes over he is so excited, it is cute. When Dad even leaves the room though, #5 comes unglued. He refuses to let Dad put him to bed.

Last night as Dad was trying to leave, #5 reached out for a hug. He cuddled up on his dad, reached over...and tried to grab his coat so Dad would take him!! Way too smart for a baby!! When his coat fell, he grabbed his sister's snow pants (which he could fit into probably 10 times!)
It was heartbreaking.

I am convinced our family will be reunited (against all indications from Hubby). I think this is a mid-life thing and he'll figure things out and be back...the 'nasty ex-wife' gene that I think women are naturally born with wants me to put a halt to the bedtime routine to make HIM suffer...that'll make him come back...right?? just kidding...I love my kids WAY MORE than I could ever have hard feeling towards him...

Not so much about finance this time...maybe later...

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Of course, just when you think things may start to turn around, Murphy shows up at your front door...with a suitcase.

Hubby had a short lay-off back in December. When work resumed he returned to a two week pay cycle. This was two paychecks ago. On Thursday his boss calls to say that he is not on the same cycle as everybody else and is making his payroll guy unhappy. So, instead of a full paycheck yesterday, he received a check for only one week of work and will receive a two week check nest Friday. UGH

I am trying so hard to spend less than we make and now this wrench is thrown in. On top of this unfortunate event #3 needs to have $15.00 for a sewing project at school.

I guess we'll figure it out as the week goes on, at least it's only for one week and not an entire pay cycle.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reality check...

Living on less than we earn has been a challenge (this is the first pay period where we've actually taken steps to ensure we live within our means). The $140.00 we started with is dwindling swiftly....we are down to $26.00. I will need to purchase diapers before the end of the week ($15.73). Today I had to buy a few toiletries for #3 and cringed at my shrinking stash.

I also have to decide how much to take out of this next paycheck for daily spending. The first $847.72 is 'already spent' so to speak. I'm not even sure if the check is going to BE that big...hubby's hours have been very sporadic lately.

Just seeing the amount needed to pay the rest of the bills for the month is very discouraging...I doubt the check will even cover that amount...if that's the case how do I continue to live on less than we earn?? For the next two weeks we will need money for 1) gas $60, 2) basketball fees $25, 3)toiletries? $40, 4)cushion $25. That's $150.00 for those of you who can't add ;) A paycheck of $997.72 is less than I pay a bill late? Do we struggle through and feel so very proud of ourselves for making it? I have doubts the family will be with me on that one! I expect Hubby to have the biggest problem. We are almost ready to file our taxes and our refund is fairly large so he will probably be of the, "But we'll have it paid w/ our tax return." I'm trying to change our habit of spending the money before it comes in. There are always excuses to wait until X to start...and that has gotten us to where we are. With our tax return we already have planned to pay off these crippling credit cards, so any money we spend now takes away from our debt pay-off; extending their ownership of us.
I'm also worried about the return and how we have 'so far' agreed to disperse it. Mathematically it should come extremely close to paying off all of our credit cards. I've always been the "instant gratification" type and am so excited to see ZERO balances on our statements.
I am pretty sure hubby has a 'want list' and is thinking some of the money should go to these "wants" because he's "worked so hard and deserves X reward"

He needs gratification in some areas where I have no problem waiting and it's an ongoing discussion...I can live w/o cable, he claims not to be able to...yesterday I decided that instead of buying him a gift for his birthday I will not have the cable disconnected. The money I would have spent anyway...and this way I am expressing my understanding of this need.

I just want to be out of debt and not have to worry about the payments we send out every month...we might actually be able to relax (just a little bit). With five kids relaxing isn't very high on our list of priorities!!

Wish me luck as I pull my hair out this week waiting for the check to be in my hands!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Decsions, decisions

A few things had to be decided before we could truly get serious.
  1. We had to make a list of income and expenses (monthly and annually)
  2. We had to see our debt on paper so we knew what we were dealing with.
  3. We had to decide what type of budget fit us best and stick to it.
  4. We had to make specific financial goals for 2009.
Being as I am the FFO (Family Financial Officer) I got to pick the strategy we were going to use. I was gong to be the one writing the checks and paying the bills, so I had to be able to follow the plan.

For a year I have been making budgets every month and seemingly getting nowhere. Every month we would inevitably look back and go, HUH? where did all the money go??

January was my breaking point...that's more credit cards, no more debit cards for everyday spending, we would live on less than we make and that was that.

With Hubby's first paycheck I paid off the overdraft owing at the bank, took $140.00 off a child support debit card I have, and said, "THAT'S IT, this $140.00 is all we have for the next two weeks, like it or not."

We still have $52.00 for the rest of the car needs gas, the printer needs ink...we'll be fine. On Friday I think I'll take a little more although I'm not sure how much. We made it on $ do we actually 'need' more??? This money pays for gas, toiletries, entertainment, clothing, school activities, medications, and dining out.

I tried to do the envelope system for a few months and that didn't work so I decided on a lump sum. This way, if Hubby takes $20 I don't have to know where every cent goes so I can keep track of it. We've tried using MS Money...too detailed for me. I'm back to a good ol' spreadsheet.

Most of our monthly bills are automatic debit so I don't have to write many checks, this makes my life easy because I can't say...well...if I wait and pay this one next week...this way it's paid and that's that.

I like Dave Ramsey's way of looking at things. His seven baby steps to freedom are a sort of "No Duh" way of getting your life in order!
  1. Fund a baby emergency fund of $1000
  2. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball
  3. Save three to six months of living expenses
  4. Invest 15% of income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  5. Fund your children's college savings
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Build wealth and give.
The first three you have to get through so you can do 4, 5, and 6 at the same time and then finish with seven.

For Baby Step #1 I have a mutual fund that (according to Dave Ramsey) I should cash out and put into a savings account for emergencies that may come up while paying off debt.
This mutual fund I only started this past year, so it isn't much. It is seriously low and I would loose almost 30% if I were to cash it out right now so I have decided that it will still act as our Baby EF, I just ain't gonna move it...if I need it I can still get at it. Although the value will fluctuate, I have a real tough time moving it because as far as I'm concerned, I bought that mutual fund 'on sale' and I doubt these prices will be around forever.

So, on to Baby Step 2; paying off all debt using the debt snowball.

The first thing I had to do was actually write down all of our debt. How much on each credit card, interest rates and current minimums. This exercise turned out to be more painful than I had anticipated. I knew we were maxed out on our credit cards and having trouble paying all of our bills some months; I just never realized the number was as high as it is.

It didn't take me more than a half second to realize I had to break it in to pieces and work on one section at a time. Otherwise, looking at a spreadsheet that says it will take you 9 years to be debt free is a little like getting kicked in the head while you weren't looking. I did not include our student loan debt as currently they are both in deferment. As soon as we get back on our financial feet I will include them in our snowball as well.

Drum roll please.....

Our total debt (as of January 14, 2009): $11,486.51
Minimum Payment: $279.84

Without any additional payments we will paying off credit cards for 47 months...four years...#5 will be in kindergarten by then!! Thank goodness we will be getting a sizable tax refund this year as it will be put towards this debt. This reduces our payment time table by more than 2 years!! It actually has our interest accumulating credit cards paid off in 15 months, the remainder is the 0% furniture which is paid in equal monthly, from four years to 15 months; that I can swallow!

I've been looking for a job so the amount we can contribute to our snowball should increase at that time as well.

So, for the last goal (2009 financial goals): To have no past due and no late fees.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Help me reach my goal!Sponsor Me at March for Babies!


When I first started all my 'personal finance education' I found the WIR on MSN Money. I was amazed by these women (and a few men) who put it all out there for the world to see. They would post their monthly income and every bill/obligation for people on the board to help them find ways to reduce their spending so they could get out of debt.

There are discussions about everything from dealing with everyday life issues, bankruptcy, and just about everything else you could image. Every month there is a Controlled/Nospend thread, there is an ongoing thread for people who use coupons.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months I went from lurker to regular! The advice you get varies from excellent to 'you get what you pay for.'

Suddenly I realized this Dave Ramsey was mentioned quite often when people were talking about getting out of debt. I figured a Google search wouldn't kill me to see what the hype was. I've heard Suze Orman and her pitch but for some reason it never sat quite right with me; something about it was not for me.

One visit to and I was hooked! His philosophy is to "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else." To live like no one else you work your ass off to eliminate your debt and then save for the things you want...a novel idea in this instant gratification world!

While getting out of debt you sell everything to the point where "the kids think they're next." The humor and analogies he uses really hit the spot for me. He's down to earth, pulls no punches and gives the advice your best friend wouldn't even have the guts to give.

I used to be one of the worst as far as instant gratification. If I had a dollar it was spent the second it hit my hand. A nickle would become a peice of candy faster than a speeding bullet (and my parents had the dental bills to prove it)!!

Step one...a budget...never done one, never wanted one, never thought I needed one! Actually seeing what we brought in and what went out was a HUGE eye opener. OBVIOUSLY this wasn't going to work forever. My thought was always, "If I can make payments, I could afford it. If they'll grant me credit, I must be able to use it."

The budget has been revamped every month and is still a work in progress. It is tough to make any of this work while we still use credit cards and have no emergency fund! My lightbulb moment last week has definately changed my outlook! I am in the process of making goals for 2009 (goal #1: finish writing goals before Feb!)

As I'm still new to this blogging thing I'm sure this post was awful'll get better, I promise...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Our family is in DEEP trouble. I don't just mean we are struggling with debt (along with the rest of the world) but we are emotionally strained and seem to be falling apart.

We are a fairly large family; Hubby, Me, and five children ranging from 1 - 18 years old. A mixed family; #'s 1 & 2 live with their mother and we pay child support, #3 was mine from a previous relationship (I say was because now I share her with Hubby), #'s 4 & 5 we had together. We have been married 8 1/2 years and live in a small town (you'll hear about life in a small town as time goes on!).

About a year ago I started to really look into finances and the impact of decisions we were making. I researched retirement fund options, read the small print on our credit card statements, balanced the checkbook and started a budget.

Almost a year later and the budget is still a work in progress. Each month I change a little here or a little there to make everything fit. Throughout the year there have been bills which have gone unpaid, a savings account has been drained, credit cards have been maxed out, disconnect notices, lost jobs, conversations, and triumphs, arguments, tears, and frustration. To say the least it has been a roller coaster.

Over the course of this same year we have had a college graduation (mine), two job changes (hubby), a first birthday(#5), a first day of school (#4), and continuing unemployment (me).

Currently Hubby is a truck driver (locally so he's home every night). I think he is underpaid (he asked about a raise in December and was told it would be considered in the new year...I'm waaaiaiaiaiaiaiting). His job has been unsteady because farmers are just not in a hurry to move anything with prices they way they are. Some weeks he works 50 - 65 hours, others he's lucky if he can scrape up 30...there are no benefits (medical, retirement...nothing). I'd like him to find another job but I think his ego has been bruised this past year after losing a job due to licensing issues and leaving another because the pay sucked.

I graduated from an LPN program in August and haven't been very 'inclined' to find work...I should be, it's just hard to get motivated when I enjoy being home with #'s 4 & 5. This past two weeks I have made up a resume, applied for jobs and begun to look for daycare...I'm getting right in to this 'job hunt' thing!

Every one of our credit cards is officially maxed out, we bought furniture we couldn't afford (but the financing was great -eye rolling-), and we are currently in the red every month by at least $500.

We receive help from the county with medical assistance, and most months we qualify for Food Stamps...I've begun to HATE this. I had a lightbulb moment the other day and realized that we should be able to support ourselves. We should be embarrassed to be on Food Stamps, not flaunting the fact that we get a ridiculous amount each month...I even thought of not sending in the paperwork this month (monthly income reporting), then I decided that I would aim to not file by March. This will give me the time (and resources) to get things straightened out and fill up our pantry again. Even if we do qualify it doesn't mean we have to take it.

Right now, living paycheck to paycheck would be a blessing...when the paycheck comes in right now it pays off the overdraft (thank God for overdraft protection) and most of the bills. The problem seems to be AFTER the paycheck is spent we have considered it 'customary' to run through our overdraft...can you believe I JUST figured this out in the last few weeks?? Now, trying to stop THAT cycle is tough, we essentially are $500 in the hole at the start of EVERY pay period; not once a month, EVERY OTHER WEEK!!!

My goal this month is to get current with every bill we have. Our electricity bill is one month past due right now ($105.00). According to the written budget we are currently $-322.20 in our checking account. The bank says we have $225.77 (plus a $500 overdraft). THAT'S how I realized there was a problem; every time I looked at the balance I included the $500 that is there in case of accounting errors or other unforeseen transactions...not a cushion or personal line of credit.

Last Saturday the paycheck was deposited into the overdraft account and THEN the checking account. I withdrew the available $140 from my child support debit card and said, "That's it. I have taken out all money we have available until the next paycheck." I went on to explain that using the debit card was a no-go and that all our credit cards are at their max (in total there is probably $350 available between the five cards).

We then proceeded to a basketball tournament for #3. The admission for adults to a junior high, double elimination tournament was $5.00-HIGHWAY ROBBERY if you ask me, especially considering the game started early and we almost missed the first half. Although they lost the first game, they won the second and thankfully got to play a third for fifth place-which they won.

My one saving grace that day was that I insisted on bringing a picnic lunch for the boys so we wouldn't have to buy food. With two hours between her first two games and an hour between the last two, that food was our salvation. It provided lunch for all three kids plus a snack for Hubby and myself. I did break down and buy ice cream because #5 is teething and I forgot the Orajel AND Tylenol :(

The next day, Hubby went to go visit #1 who is in CD treatment and the car needed want to go support a kid going through a crucial time in his life???...but we supported #3 yesterday...we can't do it all in one weekend...he didn't think I was funny, took the $20 I handed him and left. lol

So here it is already Wednesday evening. Hubby drove #3 to confirmation class (16 miles away PLUS it was our week to provide a snack for the group), #4 is whining and complaining I won't let him have chips (or Lunchables, or -insert unhealthy snack here-) because he refused to eat supper, and #5 is sleeping (he's been real sick this week with the flu so today he's been sleeping it off).

We have exactly $53 left of the $140, another basketball tournament this weekend, and an empty gas tank.

Well, #5 is awake and wants to be fed and #4 should be getting ready for bed...

A New Beginning

My decision to start a blog was born of the need to be accountable. Not to myself, my husband or any of our five children but to you, my reader.

Although most of the entries will be about my new commitment to getting this family out of debt and on solid ground; many entries will include family stories.

Enjoy and learn from my mistakes (like I wish my kids would!).