October 2009 :: Goals

Our goal for October is to pay $1,260 toward our debt. Of course, there is interest ($427) , so the net will be $833.

So our totals at the end of October should be:

Credit Card Debt  ::  $ 39,540.40
Taxes Owed         ::  $    3,259.86
Personal Loans    ::   $           0.00

Total Debt*           ::  $ 42,800.08

*does not include school loans

And now for the Savings Goals – at the end of October, we aim to have:

Regular Savings  :: $    350
Family Leave       :: $ 1,150
Emergency           ::
$    535

Total Savings       :: $ 2,035

According to MSN Money, our debt-free date is :: July 24, 2012

But I think we can get it all paid off by March 2012, which is 4 months earlier, so we have June as our goal and March as our “push” goal (can I get a nod from all of the retail management surviors).

September 2009 :: Report

Debt Reduction

Our goals for September were:

Credit Card Debt  ::  $40,203.90
Taxes Owed          ::   $  3,385.84
Personal Loans    :: $           0.00

Total Debt*            :: $43,589.74

And here is where we were after 9.30.09:

Credit Card Debt  ::  $40,227.40
Taxes Owed          ::   $   3,405.68
Personal Loans    ::   $       00.00

Total Debt*            :: $43,633.08

*does not include school loans

Our goal was that we would pay $1,259 toward debt, with a net reduction of $822. Our total reduction for the month was $762.

Budget

We are still stumbling on some of our budget categories, bringing us to a little more than $550 over budget. I’m hopeful that as we continue to work on certain issues (why, oh, why is food always an issues! Food accounts for more than half of our overages), we’ll get it all back in line.

Savings

Savings Goals for September:

Regular Savings  :: $  300
Family Leave       :: $  800
Emergency           :: $  535

Total Savings Goal  :: $ 1,635

Where we landed at the end of September:

Regular Savings  :: $  310
Family Leave       :: $  713
Emergency           :: $  512

Total Savings      :: $ 1,535

We’ve got $1,535 in savings this month, up $545 from last month. We’re so excited to have some safety nets and money for future goals!

The Luxury of a Career that You Love

I’ve had a couple of queries from some people I know about my choice to continue to pursue my grad school education in the face of our financial situation. Their logic is that I should get a 2nd job (and maybe a 3rd) to pay down the debt instead of pursing more education. Of course, my degree program is pretty specialized and if I’m able to work in my field, I’ll actually probably make less money than I do now – that’s what the non-profit world is…sacrifice. So, in a way they have a point.

But I’m still stuck in this idea that we should be able to work in the areas that we love and pursue the work that fulfills us as a person. I think a speaker I saw once called it “Marrying your vocation with your avocation.”

My questions are as follows – is this mindset part of an obsolete reality? Is it no longer “wise” or “advisable” to seek the career that you love? Has the world’s economy changed so much that we should be seeking work opportunities that promote financial “security” and upward mobility? Or, are things so bad that we should just be thankful for the jobs that we have and shut up?

I work a 8-5 M-F job that is probably considered a career for about 1/2 of the people in my job classification. I do not consider this a career for myself, it is a job. It is a job that requires a latitude of skills, and I certainly enjoy knowing that my work supports significant changes for our community and society. The non-profit I work for does wonderful things and that often makes it more “worth it” to cool my heels there while working on my Masters.

That’s great and all, but I just can’t see myself here in another 5 years. Today is my 5 year service anniversary, and I’m grateful for the job and the environment in which I work. But I know that I won’t be happy here long-term, because I won’t be pursuing the work that I love.

Have you struggled with this kind of question, too?

Getting ready for school

Today I start back with my evening classes for grad school. I’m excited, but I just stopped to think about how much work it is going to be on top of the money and living on our restricted budget while adding these extra hours to my life. The areas I’m worried about:

  1. Food – this new schedule means I’ll need to pack 5 lunches and 3 dinners each week. And since I’ll be out for those three evenings, I’ll have to be smart about when I’m packing them
  2. Gasoline – I’m adding 75 miles/day each time I go to school, and a lot of that is in stop-and-go traffic, so our gas consumption will go up about $25/week…it’s got to come from somewhere, because we pretty much manage to spend all of our gas budget each month…
  3. Time – yeah, it’s a weird one to put on a financial blog, but the 8 hours of additional commute, plus the time that is lost being at home and getting things done (plus being aware of what the hubby is spending) is a concern

It looks like I need to be very intentional about setting aside an hour each week to take a close look at my schedule, identify the areas in which I’m going to need help and ask the wonderful hubby to pick up the slack. If I can develop a really strong plan, I think these next 11 weeks will work out and we’ll be able to stay on top of our budget.

I’m looking forward to seeing where we ended up this month – I think (hope) we had more hits than misses!

Apartment Hunting

A year ago, my husband and I moved 1.8 miles east of our rented townhouse to save $355/month in rent. This was a great move financially and one of the important choices that we had to make to start getting control of our finances.

Cut to 1 year later…

Our building is up for sale, and let’s just say for the sake of our sanity and marriage, we need to find a place where our nocturnal neighbors aren’t waking us up EVERY single night between the hours of  2 – 4 am. I’m aware that some may think we are being whiny about this, but my husband works a very physical job and needs the sleep to recover, and I’m working full-time and going to grad school…we need our sleep.

So with that in mind, we are have been scouring the ads and looking at available apartments. With the drop in housing prices, the rents are fairly low – around where they were when we moved into the townhouse  4 years ago. This helps us to have hope that we will find an upper floor apartment (or townhouse or detached house) within our budget.

Wish us luck!

Success :: 9.18.09

Today, we met our first Emergency Savings goal!

Our long term goal is to have the suggested at a few months salary in an Emergency Fund, but at $11,000 that is terribly daunting, so we decided to chop this one into little bite-sized chunks. The first goal was $500, and today, we made it!!!

Admittedly, we would have reached this goal sooner, but we’ve had so many major car repairs this year – the irony being that this fund is exactly for things like that…

What put us over the top of this goal was the referral/sign-up bonus at my credit union – they have a $25 for you/$25 for your friend deal and so one of my friends referred me. Originally, I was only expecting the $25, but the manager was so pumped to get me to sign up that he told me that it was the last day for me to get $100 and my friend would get $25. This was great incentive to me (besides the 5% earning rate on the savings account) and I signed up. But when the referral bonus was paid 3 months later, it was only $25. Today I went down to make my monthly deposit and asked about it and they fixed it right away (Yay!) and now we’re over $500!

What is the next goal, you say? I believe that would be $1,000. I think it’s going to take us a few months, so let’s say by February…it can be our Valentine’s present to each other. 🙂

Do you have an Emergency Fund? What is your savings strategy?

Chickens roosting

This last week I was e-mailing with one of my friends whom I have mentioned before on this blog as one of those whom my husband and I have not had a ton of success in being transparent about our financial situation. We just haven’t had a lot of those conversations and it has been tense any time we start to approach it, so we’ve just kind of glossed over it.

Well, in last week’s message, she mentioned that she had an argument with her mother about her (my friend’s) debt. She hadn’t told her parents about how much debt she was in (sound familiar?), so when she “dropped the bomb,” her mother was in shock and said she was hurt to be lied to.

There are quite a few interesting aspects of this:

  1. those of us who are in debt choose who we tell and who we don’t tell for a number of reasons – it may be to “save face” or because we don’t want to worry them, or, to quote my friend “my financial debt is really my business, and if I so choose not to share, so be it.” And the truth is that we are generally in so much pain with the burden of our debt that we probably aren’t as focused on the pain that others might feel about being left out of the loop.
  2. this is the first time that we (my husband and I) had been informed that she was having any issues, even though she knew about our struggle. We’re not hurt, but we do find it ironic that we could have had a two-way partnership on this journey that we’ve been on the for the last year.
  3. even in telling us, there are no details, only a request for information about how we were able to negotiate lower interest rates (I don’t think she’ll be pleased to learn that she’ll most likely have to close her accounts to make that happen at this point).

As my husband and I went through this same scenario last year (although my mother responded much differently), we have the greatest of empathy for her situation. But we are also saddened by this cultural thing that keeps those of us with the “dirty secret” of debt from talking to one another.

We’re all so scared of judgement from other people and that they will stop being our friends if they “know the truth,” when in fact, our lack of transparency does a great job of cutting us off from authentic relationships all on its own.