Tag Archives: Credit Cards

How We Spent It 3-31-2016

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Sometimes it makes me really sad that my plans get derailed by doing normal people things like taking my kids to the dentist.

We used to go to this amazing dentist with a circus atmosphere (yes, even balloon animals) but once we moved it took an hour to get there one way. Too much travel for three little kids. We found a local dentist through a referral who is also a unicorn (small hands with long, thin fingers) and we couldn’t be happier with the office.

X-rays, sealants, fluoride, and cleanings for all the kids (plus x-rays for me) – even with insurance – cost us $198 today. Well worth it, sure, but still painful. My mouth is going to be a years long process because of the deductible + coverage limit per year. I’m fine with that but pretty soon we’re going to have to take Mr. Brickie and his trench mouth in there and then all bets are off and we might look into getting care credit because once you go in there you need to just get it done because his teeth have this tendency to dissolve when things are put on them.

But he’s the one from the middle class family. He got braces and everything. Seriously, don’t judge people by their teeth. You can only control that stuff so much.

Maybe I’ll get veneers so I can have a perfect smile. I could do it. Be amazing in all my pictures from now on. Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it? (If you ever want to see how *not* into selfies I am you can check me out on instagram. Surprise, my username is jennydecki.) Sadly, veneers aren’t even an option for Mr. Brickie. Ah well, I always tell him, “If they don’t hurt you’re doing better than you could be.” We do need to get him in that dentist’s office, though, and I know he’s scared even though he would refuse to the moon and back that he even cares.

When I was younger and rebellious and conservative and thought everyone could succeed if they just tried hard enough and weren’t lazy (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) I swore I’d never marry someone who had less-than-awesome teeth because I had great teeth and had a good dental routine and the ONLY way you would have janky teeth was OF COURSE if you were too lazy to brush.

I truly hope it does not surprise you to know I’m deeply ashamed I held those beliefs. I’ve talked to enough people living enough lives from top to bottom to know how wrong I was. I do, however, understand the thought process that leads someone to hold on to those beliefs. I’m not a “my way or the highway” woman when it comes to personal beliefs because there is value in understanding. I’m not sure exactly what the value is, sometimes, but maybe someday I’ll understand why I crave to know others and how they got where they are and why they believe the way they do.

This week was the “extra” check. I set aside $350 for groceries, gas, tolls, and one night of take out food. With the one day of no work last week his check was $758.19

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Walmart is work jeans for Mr. Brickie (4 pairs) because he doesn’t have a pair without holes in them and I was like, “What the what?? No. You do not wait until the last minute to tell me you need work clothing. That is a priority!!” I put it on the credit card so when it shows up on the card (it takes a few days) I can pay it off immediately.

The emergency fund was half drained to pay off a credit card so I’m trying to put a little back in there. I really was most comfortable when that was at $1000 but every time we have a dime I’m torn between the emergency fund and paying down Macy’s.

That dentist bill is a biggie, though, but I have to prioritize the kids health. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night otherwise.

So at this point I consider myself very, very lucky I was able to pull out a credit card this morning, have her charge $194 on the card, and then I was able to come home and set aside the same amount of cash from today’s paycheck so as soon as it goes on the card I can pay it right off.

It’s a whole new world, really.

Plus the hygienist told me I was awesome and my family was awesome which is always a great thing to hear first thing in the morning. It’s kept me smiling since she said it. A great bonus in addition to good dental care, for sure!

Here is where our credit card balances stand:

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It’s a lot but we’ll get there. Tomorrow I’m going to pull down the Chase Freedom $187.28 cash back into my checking account. ($150 for spending $500 in three months, $25 for adding an additional user, 5% cash back on gas.) We used this as our gas card until today because of the 5% back and we put this month’s bills that could be paid on a credit card on this card to hit that $500 limit. Tomorrow the Chase Freedom card will be back in the safe until the next time the 5% bonus category is one we want to participate in because it’s something we would have spent on anyway.

I’ll pull out the Chase Visa next (2% cash back on gas and groceries) and put a little post-it note on it that says “gas/groceries” so Mr. Brickie knows what the card is for and doesn’t have to think about it.

Can you believe tomorrow is already April??

Planning After Taxmas

The tile of this post should be, “Crap, how do I not mess this up now?” After paying off the car and the rent I’m left with a couple credit cards that need to be tackled and killed off. I have to decide how much to spend per card and which one to pay off first. I am pretty sure I’m going Dave Ramsey style and getting rid of the lowest first (which is the bed we bought on the Macy’s card) and then the second lowest and then throwing everything at the Amazon Visa until all the non-student-loan debt is gone, baby, gone!

I do have a few savings accounts I would like to fill up asap as well. One is the $2250 goal for the “other three months of rent” we pay when the lease renews in November. Another is the auto/renters insurance payment savings account. The third is what I call the “Subscriptions” savings account…it includes the Costco membership, the annual fee for my blog hosting, the domain name payments, and the car registration fees we pay to the state annually.

What I am pretty sure I’m going to do is pay minimums to the savings accounts ($260/mo. into the rent savings gets me where I need to be by November, for example) and then the remainder over and above that will go toward debt.

By the end of the month he will receive a stipend check for training class and he will get one more unemployment payment. Maybe. Work seems like it might come sooner rather than later. He got a call while we were out shopping this week asking him if he could work a job next week Monday. He had to decline because you are not allowed to miss training and it doesn’t count against you as an apprentice to decline work for training. It’s the rules.

But one call means more will come. I hope he’s back to work by the end of the month, that would be fantastic for our finances and our family. This is the time of year we start to really get on each other’s nerves.

I have to tell you though, the better our financial situation looks the less we get on each other’s nerves. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS, HUH? It’s like being poor and not having enough anything makes you a pile of stress looking for a target and golly if it doesn’t look like Mr. Brickie has a big ol’ target painted right on his chest when that happens.

You know how you hear things and you think it’s b.s. but then when it happens to you suddenly you get it and kind of feel silly for not believing the hundreds of times you’ve seen some universal truth shared online or told to you in person? Yeah, the money causes marital stress thing was a big one for me. I didn’t think being poor was affecting our marriage because we were communicating and getting through it, but man, the difference is huge but not in any kind of way I could explain with words.

We are both so much more relaxed about everything. We haven’t had a fight like The Taco Incident in months. We look back on our money fights and it feels like maybe, just maybe, those are things that are all in the past now.

It would be nice. In the meantime, the optimism alone is worth the risk.

I don’t have a cool calculator showing where we were vs. where we are but it looks a little like this:

|–(where we started)———————————(where we are)———————|

They say that graphics make a blog better. Let me know if the above gripped your soul the way it was supposed to. (wink, wink)

Better Decisions I Made Today

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Windfall Y’All!

Oh. My. Gosh.

Mr. Brickie has had hundreds of listings on Criagslist for the past few years. A few of the things we have sold are action figures, comic books, painting supplies, power tools, hand tools, and even things like those Muppets glasses from Burger King from back in the day.

We aren’t good at Craigslist and it was difficult to get things sold but he kept pounding away at it and I kept reading up and rewriting product descriptions and titles to try and make things seem as awesome as we thought they were.

Friday, we fiiiinally sold a huge lot of comics from Mr. Brickie’s childhood. When we first tried to sell them, I think he was hesitant. Years later? He was as relieved as I was when they sold.

We sold them to a private party last week for $800!!! You might remember I researched the tax implications of Craigslist sales last March and a quick search doesn’t yeild any updates in the law I can find, so I feel pretty confident that it’s a great windfall with no hidden implications. Of course, I’m not a tax professional and this is not professional advice. In fact, never take advice from me. It’s safer that way.

We also got the unemployment check today, so we’re working with an unusually large amount in our checking account right now. That means we have an unusually large amount of bills about to get paid!

…. here is how the expected and unexpected money got spent!

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I considered just topping up the emergency fund. I also considered using all the extra money toward credit cards.

For perhaps the first time ever, I decided to compromise and pay off some credit cards and replenish some emergency fund. So mature, right? There are also a couple other lots of comics that this party might purchase in the next few weeks!

I’m really excited that we’ve been able to get things done before the bricklaying season even starts. I have decided to be superstitious today and consider this a great omen for the year. As you know, the goal is to knock out the credit cards and the car by the end of summer (leaving only the giant, gross student loans which is a whole other thing I’ll have to reserach. Gross.)

A Note About The Direct Sales Thing

I’m going to start sticking the Scentsy updates at the end of the post and putting a header on them. That way if you don’t want to read about it you can be like, “Oh, it’s that part of the post, I’ll skip this.” and if you want to read it you can. I want to chronicle this part because I’m a person that SWORE she would never do something like this.

If I don’t do well I can use it to show my kids someday how it went. If I do okay and break even I can show them that there is a moderate road you can walk without going nuts.

It’s a financial thing that’s happening so, basically, it would be total b.s. not to write about it but I never want you to think I’m trying to use this blog to actively sell. Mostly because I always want this blog to be about the financial journey and the emotional stuff that happens because of that journey. So please know when I write about it, I am doing so in the context of the blog’s mission, not changing the focus of the blog on a sweet-smelling whim.

Direct Sales Update

I sent out thank you notes this week, put together and gave a friend a basket party this week, and realized I don’t want business cards. Everything I watch on YouTube is about how to do this or that and it’s like people are just dumping money on everything and hoping for the best. I’m trying to spend less money but put in more effort. That magic place in the middle where I’m creating value with the experience as well as the product.

I’m going to end up ordering something from my friend’s party. Not because she needs the help, but because there is one with an Edison Bulb called the Parlor Lampshade Warmer. I know Edison Bulbs were cool years ago (and really expensive) and I don’t mind that the trend is going mainstream, now. It’s kind of weird and maybe it’s because I’m old but I like what I like and it’s okay if it’s “over” or “so last year” because whatever makes me smile is right on trend for me. It’s just an exposed Edison Bulb in a round glass case. I think it’s going to be really beaufiful and I hope it throws off enough light to use as a little desk lamp.

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Bad Decisions I Have Made

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Yesterday, a reader (Hi Kay! I appreciate you!) asked me if I was overpaying my car payment because it seemed high.

It got me thinkng … I started blogging about finances after I made a pact with myself to stop doing things that were horrible, bad decisions. I’ve still made bad decisions since I’ve been blogging. The big ones were last Christmas when I got more credit cards to use for one holiday and looking for that post made me realize I glazed over the truth. I see myself saying I got an Amazon store card, but I ALSO got a Walmart credit card at the same time. I paid them back off after Christmas last year with the tax return.

This year I got all three kids a group gift for Christmas and then gave them stockings that were donated by a friend of mine. The group gift took one of my credit cards from 0 to max balance! Luckily, it was the card with the $300 balance. I got them the Skylanders game and we wrapped all the little people individually so they all had stuff to open. While $300 probably seems like a lot it is also the least I’ve ever spent on Christmas for three kids. So it’s an improvement for me.

That leads me to telling you about the most recent very bad financial decision I have made. I got the two older girls Kindle Fire tablets for their birthdays in January. I realized it was never on my radar to blog about and then I thought about it a few days ago and told myself no one would be interested. This morning I realized it would be stupid not to tell you I bought my kids VERY EXPENSIVE gifts for their birthday.

Maybe it was becuase I wanted to wait and make sure they were “worth it” before telling you about them.  Maybe telling you about the reading and spelling scores going from Fs to Cs and Bs thanks to educational apps will make it sounds like a less-awful decision. I don’t know. Every time I look at them I feel a little sick but I know that my girls have benefitted from them immeasurably and then I try to tell myself, “Hey, it wasn’t laptops, right?” So then I’m rationalizing my decision. I don’t know if the Kindles were a bad decision or not. I do know I saved $70 on them because I was like, “Sure I’ll apply for the card I won’t get since I just foreclosed on my house.”

Then I was approved. It’s a fee-free card with 3% back in Amazon credit so if I do keep a credit card this will be the one. I set up all my bills that could be put on the card onto the card (Internet, auto insurance, cell phones, renter’s insurance) and have a line item for that amount on my budget that’s {$240 – Credit Card Bills} and it’s actually scheduled for next week’s unemployment payment.

The month we didn’t have food stamps (EBT, SNAP, whatever) was a hard one. We found the local food pantry so several meals were covered that way. We had rice and pasta and ate everything in the house until all that was left was a loaf of funny wheat bread (I just had a slice for breakfast) and ramen noodles (which we will have for lunch) and then tonight I am so lucky we got the food stamp card so Mr. Brickie can go out in this weather (ugh this weather) and stock us back up on our staples. I will be so relieved when I can get back to making real food from scratch but until then we eat what we have and we are grateful for it.

All this to show you what might be my worst financial decision ever. The thing is, when I look at my credit card statements there are very few things that I don’t remember buying and usually when I don’t recognize one it’s Mr. Brickie getting gas. When I splurge I get a $19.99 Whirley Pop to make popcorn because I don’t have a microwave and pop popcorn about four times a week for the kids to take for snacks or to have when they want a snack. Or I get a $10 8″ frying pan because that way we can make five grilled cheese sandwiches at once and eat as a family. I know, it could sound like I’m explaining but it could also sound like I’m just rationalizing.

It’s a fine line I guess.

Life Expenses In No Particular Order
Payment Total Owed Estimated Payoff
Car $495.12 $6,839.49 April 2016
Utilities $195.00 n/a n/a
Rent (Savings) $260.00 $2,340.00 by November 15th
Auto Insurance $88.38 $444.74 renews May 2015
Cell Phones $88.96 n/a
Internet $37.99
$1,165.45
Credit Cards Listed In Order of Payoff
Payment Total Owed
Macy’s CC $25.00 $86.12
Target CC $25.00 $217.68
Amazon Store CC $35.00 $537.72
Walmart CC $25.00 $755.23
Capital One CC $35.00 $1,180.07
Amazon Visa CC $25.00 $2,328.11
$170.00 $5,104.93 <– embarrassingly large number
Money
Cash $81.00
Checking $262.03
Rent Savings $260.10
Emergency Fund $214.88
$737.01

So my emergency fund is looking a bit wrecked because of car problems, but also that direct sales thing where everyone gave me cash, I had to pay with a card, and that’s where the $81 in cash is coming from that’s on my desk.

The IL Tax Refund is going to pay off the lowest two credit cards and the rest will go back into the emergency fund. Then, when I get paid on the 9th from Scentsy that will also go back into the emergency fund and that will bring it back up to about$ 875.

I took my eye off the ball.

The joy of being you (the reader) instead of me (the writer) is you get to armchair quarterback what I’ve done and what I should do going forward. I wish I could go back and unpay those bills from Illinois and just let the gas and electric companies chase me and call me and have that $800 go toward the credit cards. I think, though, if I had I would wish I had done things the way I already did.

Sometimes choosing a path doesn’t mean choosing the better path it just means moving forward.

I am going to get through this. The kids are already signed up for an activity this summer and that’s paid for thanks to their amazing sponsor who I am a huge fan of. I will spend my time and energy on that with the three girls and every overtime check Mr. Brickie gets this summer is going to pound out those debts because we are THIS CLOSE to being out of debt. Overtime checks at his new 60% apprentice level will be big and I LOVE paying bills.

So stick with me through this mucky, dark, gross winter of discontent and poor decisions and you will be able to watch me make good decisions as soon as I can actually afford to.

Also, Miss Kay reminded me of something I want all of you to know….I welcome questions and don’t mind answering them. If you’d rather keep it private than put it on blast in the comments just shoot me an email at jennydecki at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it in a post.

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How We Spent It! (10/5/2014)

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This is how we spent it – partial paycheck edition.

Mr. Brickie has gotten paid (first check direct deposited!) and so it becomes time for my favorite time of the week which is the How We Spent It! post. For his 29 hours of service he was paid $420.13 (personally I think something is wrong with that number. I projected $467 and my numbers tend to be low but okay, alright, we’ll figure that part out later and for now let’s deal with the monster in front of us. The bills.

November’s List of (not gas/not tolls/not toilet paper) Bills

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Two Hours Later….There was already a hundred dollars in the account that had not already been spent because we just leave money alone for the most part. Right now we’re starting with $550.43 in the account. Here is how we are going to spend it.

Okay, I’m having trouble deciding. I could either pay off the two credit cards with sub-$100 balances or I could pay minimums and pay right down to the water bill. Mr. B has worked solid since Monday and weather doesn’t look like it’s going to get ugly (he can’t work if it’s below 32 degrees) so he should have a full paycheck next Wednesday ($680) which would allow for the water bill, the Internet bill (it’s an autopay bill so that money would actually be paid to the credit card) and most of the car payment would be set aside.

I think it doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter than paying off credit cards to get rid of them is going to be the smart play. Right?

So, the How We Spent It will look like this:

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The Internet bill is an autopay that goes on the main Capital One CC so I will pay that 75.00 to the card even though it is listed as Internet because that’s just how I do the accounting for now. My goal is to have my gas/electric/internet and whatever else I can be billed automatically to a credit card so I only have to look one place and make payments one place. Since I will never, ever feel comfortable having money directly removed from my debit card for the iPass (for tolls) there will always be one credit card out there to be paid and I’m okay with that. The goal – of course – is to make it a bill-collection card and not something we use to buy stuff we don’t have money for.

So that’s how we spent it! Or how I will spend it by the end of the day. I still need to sit with it for a few minutes to make sure I”m not forgetting anything or making a mistake doing it this way. I always try and sit with my decision for a little bit to make sure I haven’t forgotten something important. There is one $20 check out in limbo for the dentist and we do owe some money for a couple of medical bills that Mr. B incurred when he was really sick and we didn’t understand how a PPO worked yet. (You pay 20% so when hundred dollar bills come in the mail – not the green kind, lol – you have to pay them and you don’t resubmit them to insurance.)

But other than that there are no hidden costs or expenses.

I think I’m going to just pay off those two cards. It’s all going somewhere and as long as it’s not being wasted or going toward something frivolous, that’s all that matters.

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What to do If You Can’t Pay Your Credit Cards: Credit Card Hardship Programs

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I could not stop thinking about that woman telling Mr. Brickie to stop paying the credit cards.

So I turned to Google to see if her advice holds water. I was surprised to find that not only are credit card hardship programs an actual thing, they can be really helpful for people depending on the circumstances.

Personal Anecdotes

Over on Daily Finance the article includes personal stories showing how using these programs worked out in the long-term. Ultimately, the article comes down squarely on the fence. They work for some people, they work better for others, and you have to know what you’re getting into to really benefit from the program.

There is also the story of a woman for whom the program did not work. She had to lie to get into the program in the first place because you have to meet an income requirement. We had this happen with our mortgage conversations as well. Since we are making almost nothing right now because it’s the first winter, it’s difficult to prove we can pay a mortgage payment.

I get where they are coming from but I’m not going to lie about my income because if we lie and they give us a payment we can’t afford, how does that help anything? At least right now we aren’t making payments, things are working behind the scenes, and we know there are two possible endings to this story. Add in falsifying records and who knows what that could invalidate down the road? I’m not willing to risk it.

Who it Works For

From what I can tell, it works best for people temporarily out of work. In that sense it’s like gambling. I’m not sure why the intake lady told us yesterday that they’ll sit out there for up to 30 years. I don’t understand her cavalier attitude about leaving debt out there just hanging around. Maybe that’s something I suffer from in addition to an aversion to gambling…an aversion to debt. I would much rather not get daily phone calls I have to avoid.

I like knowing if my phone rings, I can just answer it. It’s been that way for years and I would like it to stay that way. Avoiding people, like, actively is something that makes me a little sick to my stomach. I can’t do it.

There is also an article on what to do if you can’t pay your credit cards over here.

My Goal

Since I’m not going to listen to the advice I was given (I’m such a rebel) I can tell you that after the credit cards, my number one goal is to pay off the car. We still owe about 12k on her and I’m pretty sure next year’s tax return will come at just the right time to make sure that’s out latest date for paying it off.

So there are programs out there where you could pay a smaller payment, get a lower interest rate, and even close the card while you are at it. I do hate credit card debt but until I have an emergency fund that is 3-6 months of expenses I just can’t conceive of cutting them up.

Oh, I should put together a net worth statement thing for y’all so there is a reference point. I hate to think that dropping a car debt total here and a credit card payment amount there is all you’re getting. I mean, I’m sure not everyone wants to see the whole thing in chart form, but hey, let’s be honest…I would. I always want to see what someone is doing with their money if they’re writing about it.

I’m horribly intrusive like that, though. You are probably far classier. I salute you.