Sunday, December 28, 2008

$125 Electrical Repair Complete

We had an outlet go out in our kitchen a week ago and I tried to fix it myself (got a replacement GFI outlet, wired it up based on how I read the directions, still did not work). We also noticed that a light to our basement was acting up as well on the same circuit, so I tried to remove that one to see if it would fix everything. That did not work.

One of our next-door neighbors is doing a major remodeling of his house. It had been split into 2 units and the other person moved out in the fall, so he is rejoining the 2 units. One of his friends is an electrician and was working next door, so he came over yesterday morning with my neighbor and they got it all fixed in an hour.

The total costs were $125, which included 3 new GFI outlets at $12/each. I know if I had to of gone through the phone book, the project would have easily been a $300 project. In the spring, we'll look at doing some other electrical projects.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 & 2009 Goals

2008 was pretty busy for us, here are the key items from the goal list that we succeeded at:

- Chimney Lined & Fireplace Installed: We didn't get it at the exact time we wanted, but we were successful.

- Professionally Removed Tree: We had these removed earlier than we had originally planned due to wanting the room for our garden

- Triple Size of Garden: We were successful at that and are still enjoying the fruits of our labor

- 1 Week Mission Trip: I was able to go in June

- Move daughter into her own room: She has been in her own room and the financial consequences have been felt minimally.

- Increase day job salary by 10%: This one we were the most successful at, by increasing it over 50% in 1 year's time.

- Settle debts: We settled a fair amount of our debts and have just a few remaining

One's we were not successful at: $3K emergency fund (due to debts not completed), reinstate tithing (due to debts not completed), 3 certification tests (only 1 taken), & settle misc debts.

Now onto 2009 Goals:

Pay off final CC & misc debts by June
$1.5K SIMPLE IRA by end of year
$8.5K Emergency Fund by end of year

Increase day job salary by 10%
Take 2 Microsoft Certification Exams

Install windows in basement
Install fence to block driveway
Install rain barrels to collect water
Remove large portion of driveway to expand garden
Replace upstairs bathtub

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Best Christmas Present

My wife gave me this morning my best Christmas present ever. Underneath the wrapping paper was a pregnancy test with the date October 21st written on it, which was the day she got off of birth control (an IUD for those curious). She promptly took the test and found out we're pregnant with child #2!

We had been discussing for a while that we would be waiting until February of next year to start trying, but I've been itching to start early. She secretly had been wanting to also start early, so she went to the doctor on October 21st and had the IUD removed so that we could try again.

Our estimates for the due date is July 31st, a week before the period of the summer we call "Tomato Hell", which is when we start hauling in 20-30 lbs of tomatoes a day into the house for a few weeks. I'm hoping he or she comes early! If not, we'll be sure to be recruiting help.

What this means for our finances:

1. With my current employer, I am going to not push too hard at getting a huge raise in March at my yearly review. In order to continue on the HMO insurance plan we have, I am not going to consider the possibility of changing jobs.

2. Our savings is going to be even more important and am going to go for the lofty goal of $10K saved by the end of next year.

3. The pregnancy costs should be minimal with the HMO and already having pretty much everything we need from our first one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eviction Update

In case you are wanting to know the current scores on our 3 roommates and their evictions, they are:

K - Will be asking his parents over Christmas for money to pay us back, he's the most likely one to be moving out by the end of the month. He's been looking for work for months and has been unsuccessful. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 10 of him staying.

C - She paid her 1st of the 8 weekly payments, though our concern is that her employer check bounced earlier in the month, making future paychecks suspect of not being good. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 2 of her staying mainly because this is her second eviction notice from us and she worked hard to pay us back last time.

D - She just received this past Friday her 60 day eviction notice and we've been answering questions every day. Our latest discussion last night was her letting us know she did the math and believes she will be able to make it. January 15th though will be the day she makes the final decision, dependent upon how many hours she receives from work before then. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 3 of her staying.

So who is going to stay and who is going to go? Will post my next update once we hear back from K's parents and what K decides.

Christmas Bonus Plans

Yesterday I received my first Christmas bonus from my new employer and boy was it nice. First off, right after lunch he handed me a card with 5 pictures of Mr. Franklin. Then when I was heading out the door at the end of the day, he asked me into his office and gave me 2 more pictures of Mr. Franklin off his desk. I asked him what the extra 2 were for and he told me that I have been helping him a lot and he wanted to show it. He also said for me to make sure I got my wife and daughter something nice this Christmas, which I told him I had already gone shopping for my wife and that for my daughter we are just saving for her college fund.

In the end, the grand total of $700 will go towards:

$100 - Our church, we have not been tithing. My wife and I are doing our yearly financial bible study and the key item it hits on is our money is not our money, but God's that we have been entrusted with.
$100 - Daughter's education fund
$300 - Kitchenaid Professional Mixer, present for my wife. Started at $430 after tax, then had 20% off coupon that brought down to $350, then received a $50 mail-in rebate)
$100 - Repairs on kitchen outlets I tried to fix but suspect I made the problem worse
$100 - Next month's expenses

Overall I believe that is a good mix of gifts and going to needs we have.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Recent Savings

Our natural gas bill came in recently and I calculated we have saved $140 this past month by using our wood stove instead of the natural gas. That brings our total savings this winter to $165. We also have secured a large pile of wood that we'll be picking up in the spring from friends in church. We've been going through the wood faster than I thought we would and we will probably run out in mid-February.

In addition, we did a mystery shop for an oil change on my wife's car that will pay for itself at the end of this month. It's been a while since the company we had used has had them available. My car next month will need an oil change and I'm keeping an eye out for it.

The past month we've also been visiting the library every Saturday, picking up books, videos and CD's. This has helped us while things have been tight financially.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Evictions & Renters

My wife and I have been having some deep discussions the past couple of weeks about our renters and have done the following:

- Gave a 30 day eviction notice to one roommate now 3 months behind in rent ($1050 owed). He has been struggling trying to find work and he is going to see if his parents can pay his rent.

- Rewritten our house handbook to include our mission statement, roommate expectations (eg: consistent paying of rent), as well as the eviction process.

We are also heavily considering setting into play the following:

- Require 2 other roommates to become current in 60 days or be evicted. After Sunday, both of them are 2 months behind in their rent. If they do not become current in 60 days, they will need to move out.

- If at any point a roommate is more than a month behind in their rent, they have 30 days to rectify the situation or they have to move out.

- If we have to provide 3 eviction notices, the third one is their request to move out.

The problem we're having is that it feels like we're helping them every way we can and they don't view it important that they pay their rent on time. One of the roommates that is behind 2 months just went on vacation for a week to Texas to see relatives. After Sunday, the roommates combined will owe $2200 in rent due. The way we're looking at it is like we're borrowing them $2200 when we barely have enough to pay all of the bills and keep the debt collectors at bay.

Are we being unreasonable?

Debt Status

Last Friday I went to court with my wife at my side and Capital One received a judgment for the full amount owed plus court costs. We paid $2000 last Friday and are looking at doing $1500 in January and the remaining $1500 in February. We should not have purchased the wood stove until this was resolved and are paying for it dearly.

In addition, we have 1 large debt that I've been ignoring from a foreclosure a few years back, but now don't want to have the same problems I had with Capital One. They sent us a letter recently offering a payment plan or settlement amount. I called them and have setup a monthly payment plan of $275/month through April and we're going to do everything in our power to take care of it in April through settling with them. It took a 1/2 hour to convince them I could not do a settlement and that I wanted the monthly payment plan written in the letter they sent. I'll be updating our net worth statistics to reflect this debt and the true balance of the Capital One.

We also received 2 letters about medical debts that are still outstanding with them offering a 50% discount for the next 60 days if we pay it off. Once we are closer to January, we will look at our budget and see if we can fit them in. Our original hopes were to have this all taken care of by the end of the year, but it looks like it will be closer to May of next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Budget & November Net Worth +$1,801


For December, we are going on a shoe-string budget. The main reason is the court case on Friday with Capital One. We will be paying all essentials except for the mortgage, which will be paid in January. The natural gas bill was paid early in November, so it is not on this list.

-$150 Food
-$50 Car Gas (we have some cash leftover from November)
-$95 Life Insurance
-$40 Daughters Health Insurance
-$40 Weight Watchers (Been coming out of my wife's fun money, still keeping it)
-$30 Dr. Visits
-203 Mrs Student Loans
-69 Mr Student Loans
-50 House Phone
-55 Cell Phone
-50 Water
-110 Electric

Net Worth:

It went up quite a bit, mainly due to 2 of our roommates starting to catch up on paying us back as well as settling on 2 mid-sized debts (which I wish I hadn't done, so that I would have had the money to settle on Capital One). It had been months since we had settled on a debt and I was getting itchy for not doing so.

We also opened up a "Bright Start" account for our daughter with change that we were collecting for a while. We figure if anyone asks us what to get our daughter for Christmas, we'll tell them to give to her college fund. She's at 18 months old right now and a scrap of material works as a fun toy to play hide & seek for her.

Not Following Good Advice...

I know the good advice is to keep in touch with your creditors, but it can be difficult when they call you so many times. Our Capital One debt that we were going to try to take care of over the summer (but a consulting gig did not pay me for work performed) has filed a small claim in court, which I need to appear on Friday for. I am contacting today a company that helps to mediate before court and seeing what we can do before Friday. We have $2500 in the bank to work on this, will let you know the results.

Next week I'll contact one other large creditor that I've been ignoring (so much that they're not in the net worth calculations) since they sent me a letter this weekend.