Friday, November 30, 2007

Best Time To Buy Used Toys - 2 Weeks Ago

As we get closer to Christmas, one thing I'm noticing is that the items I was searching for on eBay prior to Thanksgiving have gone up considerably. I suspect that now we're past Thanksgiving, people are realizing they need to do some Christmas shopping so that they can receive it by Christmas. The demand is probably outstripping the supply. It'll be interesting to me to see how it is in January when I'll do some more toy shopping. I suspect the supply will be outstripping demand, with everyone trying to find a way to pay for the CC bills they put Christmas on (or gifts they got they didn't want).

In the past I would always buy my Christmas present in December, since I wouldn't have budgeted. This year I spent $60 including shipping last month and got my wife 7 presents. All but 1 were off her wish list.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cheap Fun Last Night & Other Updates

My on-call job has been really slow this past month (I'm considering at the end of December if it continues to find something with more steady work, total pay is landing at $80 vs average $300). I was home, so we ended up watching a movie in the living room with two of our roommates and I made peanut butter cookies for everyone. One let us know we're stuck with him another month, which is fine by us.

We're also having another roommate joining us today, his name is Trent and he was born on 11/26/07. One of our roommates has been expecting a baby and it finally came! That brings the total people in the house up to 9 (7 adults, 2 infants). Some days it feels like we have that many around, other days it's like we're alone in this house.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Part of my fun money this month went to getting a new video card for our computer, which has caused me to re-evaluate the MMORPG question. There are many games out there that are online games that you play with others, but the vast majority of them charge you a monthly fee of around $15/month. My old-self would say that's not too much, but my new-self looks at that as 1/2 my fun money and $180/year. That's not including any other future upgrades to video cards to improve display. For that much money I could buy one of the following:
  • 15 video games for our GameCube at $12/each, or
  • A PlayStation 2 and several games for it.
  • 12 fruit trees at $15/each and have enough fruit to last us the whole year.
  • Countless other options!
The way I've decided to fulfill my MMORPG fix is to play Anarchy Online, it's a free one that I've played before because my old video card could just barely handle it. I can always do trials of the other ones if I'm wanting a little variety.

December Budget & November Net Worth (+$3,034)

November Net Worth:

This month was a good month, we had a full house of roommates and no new expenses. We were able to take care of an old cell phone bill that was $1592 as well as start the settlement for our Discover card. The net worth went up by over $3,000. Next month will be even bigger!

December Budget:

Here it is and then I'll discuss the details:

$1127 Mortgage
$240 Car Gas
$30 House Phone
$89 Electricity
$45 Water
$77 Natural Gas
$160 Groceries
$95 Life Insurance
$30 Mrs' Fun Money
$30 Mr's Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$150 Christmas
$50 Cell Phone
$10 Babysitting Fund
$300 Home Depot CC
$100 Capital One CC
$1233 Discover CC
$690 Debt Snowball

One item people missing out of this budget is the tithe. I know in the past I had written about my feelings on the tithe, but with creditors threatening taking us to court, etc, I'm not cheerful about giving our $. We've been working at serving more at our church, providing to those in need in other ways (eg: In November, we put our tithe to the cell phone bill of all the other people on our plan in October since one of them is in jail, the other 2 are not responding to our calls.) Once we get the CC folks off our back, I'll be feeling much more willing to give.

Cell phone should now be just $50/month and we're going to work at using less minutes before we move to a pay-as-you. Hopefully in January we'll move to the pay-as-you-go. The Discover CC payment is the final part of the settlement for the $5333 balance we had with them. The debt snowball will be for us to do a large settlement in February on the Home Depot or Menards.

What to do with $125?

My wife talked to her mom this week and found out that we were mailed back in September a check for $250 for our birthdays (we're 12 hrs apart). We totally missed the check, we just opened the cards sent in the same envelope. The check is now recycled by the city and probably part of the insulation I put in last weekend. I suspect she's going to mail us a replacement one, so here's my quandary:
  • My wife bought me what I wanted for Christmas (extra hard drive for our computer).
  • I have enough clothes to last me until 2010 at least.
  • There's nothing really pressing right now that I need.
Here's the options I'm mulling over:
  1. Pay off debt - Probably not the best use of a gift and it would only be a portion of a debt.
  2. Garden fund - In the spring we'll be needing more sturdy supports for our tomatoes, a handle at least for a broken shovel, a few more seeds, maybe a dwarf fruit tree if I talk to the city about planting one near the street.
  3. Fireplace fund - This year it wasn't an option with trying to get out of debt, but we're planning on next year lining our chimney and getting a fireplace put in.
  4. Investing - I've been doing a small amount of investing with some of my fun money on Prosper, mainly to learn more about debt and investing. I could always pump it into there. Other option is to finally open an IRA for us (planning on next year as a minimum).
  5. Stained Glass fund - I haven't worked on this for a couple of years now (because it's not a cheap hobby like gardening), but I have most of the tools, just need some more supplies to continue working on it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Settling on Discover Card

I got a very pretty blue envelope yesterday in the mail and it contained the following offer: "Our client will accept $2133.22 to settle this obligation."

The total balance due is currently at $5333.04, so I talked it with my wife and we're going to hold off on the Menards balance and tackle this one instead. I paid half of it last night and they will do the remaining balance on 12/3. I was thinking that it was going to take $4,000 to settle this one. This bumps up my aggressive settlement goals as follows:
  • Discover on 12/3
  • Home Depot on 2/5/08
  • Menards on 3/20/08
  • Capital One on 5/20/08
  • Other Misc Debts by 8/31/08
We'll be free of all this by our birthdays in September!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What I Am Thankful For

Thanksgiving for me has always been a great time of eating, spending time with those I love and having a 4 day weekend. There have been the simple things I've been thankful for in the past. This year though I'm so much more thankful than I've ever been before:
  1. God has provided me with plenty of work and roommates to abundantly meet our needs. There was a point in February where I had 5 possible jobs to choose from. I am at 2 right now and that is enough for this point in my life.
  2. My beautiful daughter that is full of laughs. One concern I had was that some babies I see just look around or are crying all the time, making me think that's how most babies are. It's been a long time since my sister & brother were babies, so it was hard for me to remember how they were. My daughter does have her grumpy times, but it's mainly due to when she is tired or scared.
  3. Over $20K worth of debt taken care of this year, with next month we'll be hitting $25K for the year. My numbers on the right with NetworthIQ do not include January, but there was a nice chunk taken care of in January before I started tracking.
  4. My wife has been healthy this year with no visits to the hospital besides delivering our daughter. She has a pacemaker, which makes life a little interesting. It's taken me time to learn to read when she is pushing herself too hard or not taking care of herself, things that have put her into the hospital in the past. "Day of rest" and "Plenty of Fluids" are big at our home to keep us healthy.
What about you?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

$100 Insulation Project Complete

We needed some insulation under our kitchen as well as some more added to the attic, so today's fun is as follows:
  • Drive to Menards at 8 AM, find out the last person didn't return the blower yesterday.
  • Receive call from Menards at 10:15 AM that the blower is back in.
  • When loading the blower, they can't find the new hose for the blower and give me one they were throwing out that has at least 7 cuts on it.
  • Leave Menards at 11:30 AM with 1/2 the insulation and the blower.
  • Second load from Menards at 12 PM.
  • Setup broken hose at 12:30 PM.
  • Spent an hour trying to get the broken hose to blow insulation.
  • Call Menards at 1:30 PM, they are having the new hose being brought back to them, they will call me back.
  • They call me back at 2:15 PM, the person is going to deliver it to my house.
  • The new hose gets to my house at 2:30 PM.
  • We blow insulation until 5 PM.
  • Equipment is dropped off by my wife and one of my roommates.
In the end, it cost us about $100, well worth it to keep our house a little warmer. Much better than the large quote we received to do the same work.

My Bigest Reason To Be Debt Free

There are quite a few reasons for us to work at being debt free, but sitting right next to me is one of the biggest reasons for me.

It's my baby daughter.

She is a morning person like myself, so we get together at 5 or 6 AM, have breakfast, read some news, talk to each other, sing songs (she does most of the singing). I cherish our mornings together because my evenings when extra work comes around, I don't get home until she is already asleep. When she smiles because she sees me after being away for a while, all the work to take care of her is worth it.
  • I want to be able to spend even more time with her with no worries about creditors calling us daily
  • I want to make sure her needs are met (and a couple of wants)...
  • I want to be a good example to her of a wise steward.
  • We are heavily considering home-schooling her, which will require some of my time.
I have noticed that ever since I knew we were going to have a baby, it was put upon my heart to fix the bad situation we are in. If I believed in coincidences, I would say it was. I know it is God working on refining me to be the man of God he wants me to be.

Old Cingular Creditor Paid

Yesterday I took care of an old Cingular creditor we had from almost 2 years ago, settled for 35%. It was a pretty easy process, told them that I had received an offer letter a couple months ago and was wanting to know if the offer was still available. It was, I offered to pay in full, they tried to charge me a processing fee for my debit card, had that waived and I was pretty much done.

Our NetWorthIQ listing is pretty accurate for where we'll land at the end of the month, the only uncertain is exactly where the cash will be landing. If our roommate keeps paying us back like they are the next 2 weeks, we'll hit the $1K. If the other cell-phone folks pay us back, we'll be even higher.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Last Bit of Cell Phone Problems

I suspected this would happen to us, but it still hurts a bit. Late last month we got the cell phone plan finally split so that the other people that had phones have taken over their portion of the plan. There was an amount due last month for September's service and then we got the final bill with October's service that covers up to the end of us being together. The way it had been working was we would send them a text message at the beginning of the month with their share and they would pay by the end of the month or the cell phones would get disconnected (we were always a month behind).

Without the threat of being shutoff (because my wife and I paid the past due and their phones are no longer on our plan), the 3 adults (in the age sense) that have the other phones did not pay at the end of last month, we sent them another text message a week ago and they haven't responded one way or the other. We have decided to pay it all and just consider it our act of service to God. If they pay it, great, if not, we are at least free from being chained to them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

80 lbs of Potatoes = $8

Our local grocery store has had a sale on potatoes the past 2 weeks, so I went ahead and picked up 80 lbs of potatoes. With roommates in the house wanting some of our food sometimes, I figure over the winter we'll get through these pretty easily with french fries, baked potatoes, cheesy potatoes, mashed potatoes, etc. The only comment the cashier made was "Having a party?"

We also spent a lot of time today using up the last of our green tomatoes. We made a huge batch of green tomato salsa, filled many small jars for Christmas presents to our friends from church and neighbors. Including the jar, each gift is going to cost us ~$0.85 ($0.75 for the jar, $0.10 for the items we did not have from the garden). I'm planning on getting a sheet of the labels and printing on them, asking for the jars back when they're done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Details on Our Debts

I had a reader ask for the details on our debts, so here it is in all it's glory:
  • $308 - Dish Network, 1 & 1/2 years ago my wife got it for me because I was wanting access to Angel Network. We shouldn't have signed up because at the time we didn't even have enough money to cover all our expenses, so it was disconnected for lack of payment.
  • $368 - Chiropractor bill, several years old, I don't even remember when but it was for my wife.
  • $400 - Foot Dr bill, several years old, my wife needed new orthotics in order to walk, but we haven't paid for them yet.
  • $401 - Ambulance, 2 & 1/2 yrs ago my wife was really sick at work and they called the ambulance to take her to the hospital.
  • $435 - Pacemaker checkups, 2-4 years my wife has a pacemaker and we had her going to one place for checkups but haven't paid them yet.
  • $517 - Hospital Emergency Visit, uncertain details, probably from the ambulance above.
  • $685 - Hospital Emergency Visit, 3 years old, my wife was getting dizzy spells big time, we were concerned it was her pacemaker, problem was dehydration.
  • $2187 - My Stupid Mistake, 1 & 1/2 years ago with money being very short I decided to give plasma for money. I had done it before in college and it hadn't had any bad effects, but the day I went in April '06 I did not eat & drink enough beforehand, so I blacked out at the place and went unconscious. For a couple of hours I lost a week of my life. I had tests done, no permanent damage but I should have pursued the place for negligence to take care of the bills (they didn't take me to the hospital, they just put me on a bed to rest).
  • $804 - Bank Fees for closed account, 1 & 1/2 years ago during a time I lost my job and finances went crazy, we had several items on auto-draft and checks floating, which caused our account to go negative. They kept adding more fees until we could bring it current, which we were not able to due to no job.
  • $1591 - Cingular cancelled account balance, 2 years ago. This was where we went from a bad situation of 3 phone plan to 5 phone plan after my wife had just a few month prior bought a $500 phone with Cingular. She and her friend were having calls dropped with Cingular and they both were trying to work at Primerica, so they were needing to go to a different carrier. Her friend worked at Verizon, so they changed it to that. We'll be taking care of this next week.
  • $3629 - Menards, 2-3 years ago. This is a couple of mistakes all put together, partially kitchen remodeling to our old condo when we couldn't afford it (I made a promise I shouldn't have to my wife before moving into there and felt obligated to keep it). The other part was spending excessively to help my father get out of a bad house he bought and was facing foreclosure. We got it sold in time, but nothing out of it.
  • $5333 - Discover, 2-4 years ago. This is one of those that we just kept putting amounts here and there on it, I don't even know exactly what it all was.
  • $5774 - Home Depot, 2 years ago. We put part of the kitchen remodel mentioned above onto it, but a large chunk was a bay window at our current home that was damaged by neighborhood kids. Instead of taking the homeowner's insurance money and paying a fair chunk of the bill, we lived off the money instead.
  • $6919 - Capital One, 2-4 years ago. This is in the same category as the Discover, I don't have much to show for it besides being here today.
We had a whole bunch more before on this, a Chase & Bank of America CC spent on who knows what, a CarMax loan on a worthless car, various small debts, 2 months behind on the mortgage and utilities. It's hard to get an exact number, but so far for this year alone I'm looking at us tackling ~$19,000 worth of debts ($1860 mortgage past due, $12,000 CC, $3,400 non-CC, $1600 CarMax loan).

The main point of this post is not to point fingers at who did what, but it is to learn from our mistakes and not make them in the future. I have no ill-feelings regarding the choices my wife made, for I was making bad choices at the same time and not leading the way a husband should.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Another Full House Month

We've been blessed this month again, we have a full house of renters still and it looks like it won't change next month either. What this means is we'll be going gangbusters against our debts. Here's what's currently planned:

$300 - Already paid yesterday to second highest CC to keep them at bay
$100 - To be paid to highest CC to keep them at bay mid-month
$554 - Old, old cell phone termination balance that was $1591, but they're willing to settle for less. Will take care of on the 16th.
$X - The rest piling up so that we can settle our smallest CC bill ($3600) for something like 70% on 12/3.

The insulation project is looking like it will take less than we budgeted, as well as the car repairs won't be that bad. We'll know by the end of next week what the $X amount will be and see if the 12/3 goal is realistic.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

$10/Gallon Gas & Other Future Concerns

My wife and I have random discussions sometimes like "What happens when gas becomes too expensive to buy?" and two guys in my small group at church are feeling the effects of downsizing at their respective jobs (there's only 4 guys in the group). Here's some ideas of where I'm looking at getting prepared (it sounds crazy even to me, but I'm getting ready):
  1. Gardening: Besides my own yard, in 2 years I'll be looking to start some community gardens in my neighborhood. I live in an older part of Joliet, IL where there are several empty lots that the city owns from buildings torn down but have never been built on. Some reasons are due to the neighborhood, some are due to the lot sizes are too small to build something these days.
  2. Root Cellar: The excess we'll be growing needs to go somewhere. I'm planning on making one in our basement to handle enough food to feed my family for the winter.
  3. Car: I'm working on learning more and more web programming at my current job with my hope to be able to telecommute in the future and not drive as much. I'm researching making my own Ethanol/Biodiesel or making an electric car.
  4. Heating: Next year or the year after we'll be installing a wood-burning stove into our home to help with the heating costs and my eventual goal will be a wood-burning furnace (don't know if we'll need to go that route...)
  5. Retirement: I'm looking at us possibly purchasing 5-10 acres out in Missouri or another country completely and building a family farm or enclave. Wherever we are, we plan on serving others in need.
Besides building up your investments, are you doing anything physical as a backup plan if your investments go south with everyone else's? Have I gone nuts?