Wednesday, June 22, 2011

change the way you spend

here's the last post, as promised...  sorry it's so late!

i'm devoting my birthday week to big changes that we've made in our lives over the last 2 years- particularly the last year.  i've already talked about changing the way we eat and use... now i'm here to talk about the money, money, money...

money has been a very big challenge for us over the last 2 years.  it's definitely been the single-biggest source of tension in our home.  when we were married we each had debt- we each had our own student loans, dave had his car and we each had credit card debt- his had our honeymoon on it, and mine just had irresponsibility on it...  $27k in total debt.  boo.  we immediately got to work.  we had a house, and i had just gotten a new job- we were rolling right along.  1 year later we were down to $21k.  then the next spring things started falling apart.  i've probably told this 1000x, but here goes again- dave was laid off in january 2009.  he had made it through 3 previous lay offs, but this time not many people escaped.  luckily, he still had a month left to work, and a month left of pay after that.  during this time a job opened up at his company at the office he worked at when he first started w\ ge (outside of chicago).  he interviewed for the job, and was offered.  he had 45 days to report up there, and they would not assist w\ relo.  so we had 45 days to pack, move and figure out what to do w\ a house that we had not even owned for 2 years.  i ended up staying by myself for 6 weeks in atlanta packing our house (our neighborhood had recently been hit by a string of robberies too- comforting).  our rental prospect fell through and w\ foreclosures in the neighborhood, we were forced to short sale or else we'd be joining them.  making a long story short- we sold our house for almost $90k less than what we owed- luckily that was all forgiven.  blah blah.

so we moved up here and i found out i was pregnant a week later.  too bad no one wants to hire a pregnant woman.  i got a job at target, and worked there through the delivery.  during this time, we managed to pay off dave's car.  now we manage to live w\ my minimal income from the 2 jobs i have (i stay home w\ ian) and what my husband has.  with the ge insurance debacle from having ian and our previous er trip- we've accrued extra debt.  so we are working on paying that off...  it's hard.  most months i feel like we just have enough money to pay our bills and pay nothing extra, but we press on!

we started listening to dave ramsey while we were still in atlanta and we are currently at work on our debt snowball.  paying off the smaller debts up to the largest.  we currently pay just the minimum on both of our loans while we work on the hospital bill and our insurance.  once the hospital bill gets paid off (barring anything else happening) we start paying on dave's loan harder- then mine!  i'd like to get all this paid off before we think of buying a home again. 

here's the only advice i can offer on what works for us-

1.  don't use credit cards if at possible.  i wish this was fully true for us.  i have 2 store cards that i use for points purposes that are paid immediately upon use.  we also have a regular credit card that we use for big purchases (airline tickets).  our goal is to not have to use this card at all.

2.  make a budget.  we have been using the same excel file for almost 4 years that we add a new page to monthly.  it has a list of all our bills, how much is due, when it's due, how much remains, etc.  it helps to see the numbers in front of you.  instead of blindly paying every month, i can see that when i pay, the number gets smaller- and that still inspires me after 4 years.

3.  sell or donate what you don't need.  make money where you least expect it!  we are in the process of weeding through junk in our house.  we have been selling things on ebay and have made about $300 in the last 2 months.  what we don't sell, we'll donate.  whether it's having money in our pocket right now, or using the donation to write off on our taxes- it's putting money in our pocket either way!

4.  take advantage of referral programs.  some companies will offer you money if you refer people to them- we are with dish, and they offer up to $500 a year.  just through referrals so far, dave & i will be getting $45 off our bill.  that's our entire bill.

5.  less spending on junk.  this is a work in progress.  just learning not to buy stuff we don't need and saving for what we do need.  i started making a list of wants and needs.  seeing the list helps me know that we have to earn it.

6.  couponing.  i could write an entire post on this, but i won't bore you.  we shop @ supertarget b\c i get a 10% discount + 5% redcard discount.  coupons + making my list in advance = usually saving at least $50 per bill!  btw, coupons aren't just for junk food!

7.  cheap dates-  being broke may mean that you can't go on vacation, but it doesn't mean you can't have date night.  we try to do our dates via coupons/deals from groupon, scoubmob, or living social.  that gives us food or movie tickets for half price!  woot!

and those are just a few (whew!) of the ways we try to make our money work.  i'm always looking for more ideas, so bring them on! Pin It!

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