Personal Finance Addict

Personal Finance Addict

Jun 7, 2015

June Personal Finance & Net Worth Update

This will be the first of my monthly personal finance updates.  I decided to do this as a way for me to keep track of our progress and to allow others to see the progress we make and how we do it in hopes to motivate and educate others on their own personal financial journeys.  I'm also betting this will help motivate me more to make a big impact from month to month.

If you have been following my blog, you probably already know that my husband was unemployed for over a year, which has prevented us from being able to make much progress.  However, he just started a new job about a month ago and we are hoping we will be back on track to paying down our debt in the next month or two.  Even with him being unemployed, we were actually able to pay down $2,000 in debt in the last year.  I know this isn't much, but considering we were not at all prepared for his job loss and we still managed to pay some debt and not take on new debt is a win in my book.  Our future goals include (in this order):

  1. Get completely caught up on our monthly bills (currently only behind on our electric bill).  
  2. Build our buffer back up in our budget.  If you're not familiar with this, see my post here.  
  3. Start saving for necessary emergency funds (car repairs, emergency fund, etc.)
  4. Pay down our debt.
  5. Increase 401k contributions and look into other investment options. 
  6. Retire early, buy an RV and travel the country.  Our goal for this is 3 years from now, but I realize this is probably unrealistic unless we fall into a lot of money between now and then.  
One thing I can't decide on is whether to buy a house at some point.  I know from lots of research that we could buy a house or condo and our monthly payments including tax, insurance, and hoa fees would be less than we pay in rent.  But I also know that our ultimate goal is to sell most of our belongings and live in an RV travelling the country.  With our current credit rating, we wouldn't be able to qualify for a mortgage now, so we can't buy a house anytime soon.  I'm thinking when we get to the point where we are credit worthy, I will then look at our overall finances and figured out how far we are from our retirement goal.  If it's still several years out, then we could go ahead and buy a house because we will have enough time to build up equity in it before selling.  

So here is where we stand as of today, our starting point (it's not pretty):

Right now, we're just working towards a $0 net worth and that's just sad.  By the way, this was taken right from from my YNAB budgeting software.  You can learn more about it here.  


Jun 6, 2015

How to Throw a Party on a Budget

My daughter recently graduated high school and I couldn't not throw her a graduation party.  Our apartment is too small so I decided to rent a lodge.  This rental cost $75 and it was a really nice and big place.  Her father said he would take care of the food and cake, so that left me with decorations, drinks, plates, eating utensils, and napkins.  I budgeted $100 for this and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to find almost everything at the Dollar Tree, where everything in the store is $1.  I purchased the rest of the items at the grocery store and a party supply store and I only spent a grand total of around $60, well under my $100 budget!  The Dollar Tree had a ton of party supplies and graduation decorations and I even got a little carried away with the decorations.  Throwing her this party that she so greatly deserved only cost me $135.  Granted, I was lucky that I didn't have to provide the food, but if I had, I would have made it all myself and not had it catered.

Now I could have probably spent less had I made my own decorations, but from my past experience with DIY projects, I usually end up spending more money because I buy so many things to make the projects.  I never have the right things at home and I'm not always creative enough to make other things work.  I spend so much time looking at different stores for the right supplies it just isn't worth it to me.  I had enough going on anyway that I really didn't have the time for all this.  I love saving money and I am known to go out of my way to do so, but I limit myself to how much time I spend just to save a couple bucks.    It seems everyone is on these DIY Pinterest project kicks nowadays, but I value my time too much to be wasting on something that is only going to be used for a few hours.

photo credit: personalized glass mason treat jar and foil wrapped chocolate peanut butter cup snack treats via photopin (license)


May 27, 2015

I Earned My First Nickel Today!

This is an exciting day for me!  I finally made it to 5 cents in my Adsense account.  I wrote my first post 10 months ago and just now made it to a nickel.  To be fair, I didn't really start promoting my blog until recently.  I'm certainly not expecting to get rich with this blog, especially considering the little amount of time I have to work on it, but I am thankful for every penny it makes.  Thank you to whoever helped me earn my first nickel!

 photo credit: image e via photopin (license)


May 25, 2015

Clothes Shopping for the Plus Size Girl

My daughter starts her summer job in a few days working in an office setting and needed business casual attire to wear to work.  She had virtually nothing in her closet that would be appropriate and fit.  Since she does not yet have her own money and I want her to succeed in making her own money this summer, I took her to buy her some clothes.  Since she wears a plus size, this makes it difficult to find a good selection of clothing anywhere.

We of course started with the thrift store.  We were able to find her a few shirts and a dress there, but no pants.  Our thrift store is huge, but does not have dressing rooms and does not allow returns so we didn't want to waste money on pants that we weren't even sure would fit right and they didn't have anything appealing in her size anyway.  We spent $32 total at the thrift store.

We then went to Plato's Closet (a junior size consignment shop), which just recently started selling plus sizes.  Unfortunately, the dress pants & khaki's section in her size consisted of about 5 pairs of pants total.  All but one were hideous.  The one she tried on did not fit well.  She was able to find two dresses here and a shirt.  Total spent at Plato's Closet was $26.

We had to find her some pants because she doesn't want to wear dresses every day and we had already bought her some shirts.  I decided to take her to Lane Bryant since it was nearby and I thought they would have a large selection of dress pants since the whole store is for plus sized women.  We were highly disappointed to only find a few options, all of which were $60.  They were buy one get one free, so we could have got two pairs for $60, but it was still more than we wanted to spend.  So we walked out of there empty handed and off to Kohl's we went.

We ended up getting her two pairs of pants and skirt for $58 out of pocket at Kohl's after using $15 from a gift card I still had from Christmas and applying for a Kohl's card to get a 30% discount.  That alone saved me $29.  I knew I wouldn't be approved anyway and wasn't worried about the inquiry affecting my credit score right now so why not spend a few minutes answering questions on the computer screen and save $29?

Then we had to get her shoes.  I refuse to buy second hand shoes unless they are ones that I know I will always wear socks with.  Since I knew she needed dress shoes and would probably want flats, she obviously isn't going to wear socks with those during the summer, so we hit up Payless.  Two pairs of shoes there cost us $45.

So the total spent to get her started on some work clothes was $161.  I was hoping to get away with only spending $100, but unfortunately that didn't work out.  I don't think we did too awful though considering everything she got.

Do you have any tips for shopping for clothes to save more money?  Please feel free to share in the comments below!


May 20, 2015

Getting Back on Track

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my husband was out of work for over a year after losing his job early last year.  He was able to collect unemployment for six months, which helped us to at least pay the necessities, After that ran out, we really struggled to keep up with the rent, electric bill, cell phone bill, internet, and food on just my income and two growing teenagers in the house.  We did luck out when we won a trip to the super bowl and were able to sell the tickets to the game.  That helped us catch up on our rent and other bills that had fallen behind, but didn't last as long as we had hoped.

My husband finally started a new job about a month ago, but are still trying to catch up on our electric bill and get back to being able to pay our rent on time since he has only received two paychecks so far.  His job is commission only so it's driving me crazy not being able to plan ahead and figure out how long it will take us to get back on track and start paying down our debt again.  In his line of work, he has always been paid commission and not a regular salary so that is not new to me, but at a time like this it makes me crazy because I love to plan for the future!  To make matters worse, my paycheck is now being garnished for an old debt since I have not been able to pay it during this past year.  This eats up about 20% of my paycheck.  On the bright side, that debt should be done after three more checks and that is one less debt and $1800 to remove from our total debt.

During this difficult time, we have really cut back on a lot of things!  Most of these things I tried to do before, but my husband wouldn't have it.  His philosophy on money was always "I can't take it with me".  Money is one of few things we disagree on.  It took me a while to convince my husband these changes were necessary, even after he lost his job.  But he eventually came to his senses and realized he was being selfish and unrealistic.

We have cut expenses on many things during this last year.  We never eat out, with the exception of my husband eating fast food for lunch on occasion (I'm still working on that one).  We completely cancelled cable.  We use my mother-in-law's Netflix account and we pay for Hulu Premium for $7.99 per month.  Cancelling cable really took some convincing for my husband.  I had to tell him we had no other options and it was a luxury that if we continued to keep, would cause us to become homeless.  The funny part about it is after we cancelled it and subscribed to Hulu premium he said he doesn't even miss it anymore.  The only thing he misses out on is some sports, but he is able to catch most things online somewhere or on basic channels.  But then, as soon as he found out he got his job, the first thing he mentioned was getting cable back!  No!!!!  I told him "why would we add another $150 monthly bill for something you didn't even miss and won't get to enjoy much of now that you're working anyway?"  He hasn't brought it up since.

I've been rolling my own cigarettes for quite a while now, which saves me $124 a month.  We very rarely drink alcohol anymore, not that we drank a lot before, but we did used to go out probably at least once a month and that no longer happens at all.  If we do drink, it's something we make at home and is so rare that it costs us virtually nothing.  I've been making our own bread in our bread machine and we bought a Soda Stream, which saves us a little.  I'm working on putting together some numbers for future posts on those although I fear we aren't saving as much as I thought we would when we bought the Soda Stream because now my son has an endless supply of soda.  We never buy clothes unless absolutely necessary.  If it is necessary, we try the thrift stores.  My daughter starts a summer job next week that requires business casual attire and she really has nothing to wear so we will have to hit up some thrift shops this weekend to at least get her a few outfits for work.

The next thing I'm working on is switching our cell phone carrier from AT&T to Cricket.  My husband is really against this too.  I'm still trying to figure out his reasoning on this one.  It makes zero sense to me to stay with AT&T when we can switch to Cricket and lower our bill from $255 per month to $100 per month (4 phones).  He actually got AT&T on the phone and talked to them for over an hour trying to convince them to lower our bill to keep us with them and the best they would do is shave off $20 a month.  I'll take it for now, but we're still switching!  He did, however, convince them to send a new phone for my daughter without insurance and without putting it under a contract (hers broke).  So right now we have two of the four phones completely out of contract so the plan is to switch those over to Cricket within the next week.  That leaves us with two phones under contract with AT&T and since we don't have the extra money right now to pay the early termination fees, we will have to wait until we can come up with it.  This will be first priority once our rent and electric and caught up.  I've done all the research and math and we can bring all of our current phones over to Cricket and will only need to pay $25 activation fees for each one plus 1 penny for each new sim card.  To start with, switching just the two of them over to Cricket will only save us about $8.44 a month.  This is because of the way AT&T prices two phones verses four and Cricket offers additional discounts for each additional phone.  But it's still savings.  If we were able to switch all four phones now it would be worth it even with paying the early cancellation fees.  If we could switch them all now, we would save $1000 in our first year with Cricket, including the early termination fees and activation fees.  Every year after that, we will save $1,860.

I have to say the only things we have splurged on at all is the soda and cigarettes.  I know we could save more money by cutting those out altogether, but I'm just not ready to quit smoking.  I do, however, want to start drinking less soda and more water.  This time of year I tend to drink more water anyway so my goal is to quit soda completely and stick to water, not only for the cost savings, but for my health too.

Does anyone else have any great saving techniques, ideas, or want to share what your weaknesses are when it comes to splurging?

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May 17, 2015

Careless Spending at the Grocery Store

If you read yesterday’s post about me trying to teach my kids a lesson, I did break down and go to the store today, mainly because we were out of meat and fresh fruits and vegetables and I’m not mean enough to deprive them of those items.  So while I was at my local grocery store today I noticed the lady in line ahead of me had a gallon of milk on the belt.  This shocked me because the half gallons of milk were on sale for $1.00 each, while the gallons of milk were on sale for $2.69 each.  Why in the world would she want to spend an extra $0.69 on the same exact quantity of milk?  My guess is she just didn’t pay attention to the prices, which makes me wonder how much more money she was wasting on other things. 

She then asked the cashier for some cigarettes.  Now I’m not going to knock her for smoking since I am a smoker myself, but she is really spending way more money buying these at the grocery store than if she were to roll her own or even buy them somewhere else.  As I stated in my post “How to Save 65% on Cigarettes”, I roll my own cigarettes at a local smoke shop using their machine that does all the work for you for only $22.18 per carton.  This same smoke shop is located almost directly across the street from the grocery store she was buying these cigarettes at.  On top of that, even before I discovered rolling my own cigarettes, I would never purchase my cigarettes at the grocery store because they are always more expensive at grocery stores than they are at gas stations or convenience stores.  This is one of the few items that are cheaper at gas stations, but it is cheaper nonetheless. 

I had to wonder what kind of person is so careless with their money.  I have a few theories.
  1. She is one of those people, like my husband was before I proved him otherwise, who thinks “oh it’s only 69 cents” or “what’s a little bit more for convenience” and doesn't realize how much all of those add up. 
  2. Her husband handles all the finances and she has no clue what her spending habits are doing to their finances. 
  3. She just doesn't care enough to pay attention to prices when buying anything at the grocery store.  She just buys what she wants and doesn't care what it costs, at least to an extent. 
  4. She has an endless supply of money, which is highly doubtful, but good for her if that is the case.
Her case could be any combination of those above, but unless she falls into that 4th scenario, she is hurting her family’s finances by not buying more responsibly.

So what did I buy at the grocery store today?  Four half gallons of milk at $1.00 each, eggs on sale for $0.99, sugar, bananas, five pounds of ground beef, deli meat and cheese for lunches, deli potato salad on sale for $1.25, pickles, Soda Stream cola for our Soda Stream (more on this to come in a future post), two boxes of cereal on sale for $1.88 each, hamburger buns, two packages of bacon on sale for $2.69 each (great deal!), some Cheez-It crackers, and chips and dip because I splurged a little.  Since my wonderful stepson works at this grocery store, we do get a small discount and I only spent $61.87 total.  The total discount was $4.39.  I then came home like I always do and opened my Ibotta app on my phone and got $1.10 back for some of the items I purchased (bananas, bacon, and cereal).  If you do not have this app already, you need to download it.  It is free and takes a few minutes of work, but you get free money just for buying things you already buy.  The best part about Ibotta is that not all items are brand-specific.  They give you money back on any brands of milk, bread, produce, etc.  

photo credit: Day 3/365 - Ride in the Shopping Cart.. (Explored) via photopin (license)


May 16, 2015

Why I Chose to Starve My Children

Ok, ok.  I’m not really starving my children, but they tried to tell me I am.  I’m sure most parents have been there.  I just decided I was going to quit feeding into their guilt trips when it comes to food.  Food is a necessity, but does not have to be a luxury.  We are having a rough month financially and I was tired of my teenagers wanting me to buy so much fast food, frozen premade food and snacks, and soda.  I had had enough and it was costing us a fortune.  They have also become extremely lazy and I’m trying to make them more responsible young adults. 

So what did I do?  When they said they were hungry, I told them to find something in the house to eat.  “But mom, we don’t have any food”.  “Really?” I said.  I knew we had food.  They just didn’t feel like cooking and there wasn't anything they wanted that was quick and easy.  At that moment, I could have come up with at least 4 meals they could have made themselves.  I just ignored them.  I knew if they were hungry enough they would find something.  They were old enough to cook for themselves at the ages of 14 and 18.  I work long days and I’m not coming home after working 10-11 hours to cook for them anymore. 

A few days later, I get home from work one evening.  I look at my daughter sitting on the couch with a goofy look on her face.  I asked her what was wrong.  She said “I’m hungry”.  “You are?” I replied.  She says “we have officially run out of food”.  Hmmm.  I knew this was still not the case.  She then says “please send me somewhere to pick up dinner.  I’m so hungry I just ate a bowl of cream of wheat and I hate cream of wheat!”.  “Well if you just ate cream of wheat you shouldn't be hungry then” I replied.  Nope.  I’m still not giving in. 

It’s about three days later and the only thing I have purchased from the grocery store is paper towels (my son has sent me 3 text messages within the last week reminding me we need paper towels, like that is something we can’t live without) and cheese and pizza sauce to make our own pizza. 
But I’m not just doing this to save myself money.  I’m also trying to prove a point.  The point being they are old enough and capable enough to start cooking for themselves and that there are people out there much worse off than we are.  I’m also trying to force all of us (myself included) to get more creative in the kitchen and use what we have rather than run out to buy food that we want when we already have plenty of food that can be prepared in the house. 

I take full blame for them becoming this way since I have usually given in to the guilt trips in the past.  Unfortunately, this is the only way to break this bad habit of eating out and buying them food when it isn't needed.  The kids went to their dad’s house for the weekend and I’m wondering if I will receive a text or call from him any minute now asking why I’m starving his children.  If I do, I will gladly ask him to come on over and have a look in our cabinets to see that they are not bare. 

I would love to hear if anyone else has “starved” their children.  Please share in the comments below!

photo credit: Dinner for One via photopin (license)