Archive for November, 2007

Predatory Lending Association (Satire)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

As some of y’all may have noted from my Top 10 Reasons to Be Debt Free, I have a strange and twisted sense of humor.  So with great glee I present a site an email friend sent me that has to be the best in barbed satire I’ve seen in quite a while: The Predatory Lending Association.  I especially enjoyed the “official response to the Talent Amendment and 2007 Defense Authorization Bill,” considering just how many payday loan and check cashing places have been lined up  in between Gate 1 and Gate 6 along 41-A in front of Fort Campbell for years!  Click around, have a good laugh, and enjoy!

And the Shopping Season Began…

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Friday kicked off the official Christmas shopping season…and the only place I went to was the grocery store!  While father-in-law was up here last week (week before?) he bought us a chest freezer as our Christmas present.  He made the comment I should want something more frivolous and less practical than a chest freezer, but got us one that was twice the size I had in mind!  So of course I felt free to stock up on any meat deals at the grocery store, of which there were MANY on the so-called Black Friday.  The only reason I even left the house on Friday at all was because we had forgotten to put dog food on the shopping list earlier that week.

As for gift-giving this year: Just because we are working so hard to reduce our debt doesn’t mean friends and family will be lacking.  I am making Christmas presents, and have two completely done - one for my mother-in-law and one for hubby’s grandmother.  Right now I am taking a break from working on my mom’s present.  I can’t say what I am making, since hubby told me his mother sometimes takes a look at this blog, but I will say it is something not too many people think of when they hear the phrase “homemade gifts.”  I am seriously debating whether or not to tell them I actually made them by hand ;)  With my family, they already know I make these things plus my mom and sister made specific requests when I announced it would be a handmade gift year.

In fact, I was able to stay out of my all-time favorite stores for buying my crafting supplies: Hobby Lobby and a little locally owned place that is dedicated to my hobby.  I’ve been known to “lose” up to $100 per store…but walk out with months of projects.  Instead, I went to a wholesale supplier online and only spent $56 for the supplies I needed to do up this year’s presents.

We did end up at Best Buy last night, since son wanted World of Warcraft (his father already said he would pay for the subscription if I bought the software) and I am just not quite talented enough to make that one by hand LOL  I have to confess I was eyeballing a little printer-scanner-copier to replace the three year old model that died this past year and is just taking up space on my desk.  We resisted the temptation to impulse it, but hubby and I discussed fitting it into next month’s budget since it is only $79 plus tax.

And that right there is one of the biggest changes in our behavior since we got onto the Dave Ramsey plan: we discussed it quickly in the store, determined that we didn’t have it in this month’s budget (since we now have a working budget!) and are making plans to put it into the December budget.  Last year it just would have ended up on a credit card.  This is measurable economic progress!

New Car, Used Car, Leased Car, Bought Car

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Sorry about the post title…I just couldn’t resist doing a little take off Dr. Suess.  Hubby is back home safe and sound, and for a day and a half my father-in-law was here visiting.  While FIL was here, we got bombarded by all kinds of “normal” thinking in regards to finances, and I was on the receiving end of about an hour-long argument about the virtues of new vehicles.  UGH!

See, I have never in my life bought a vehicle new off the lot.  I remember back in the 6th or 7th grade, one of my teachers told the class how a brand new car loses about $3,000 of its value just by driving it off the car lot.  I’ve never had the money to take that large of a depreciation hit…or the money to actually buy a new vehicle LOL  The “newest” car I have ever bought was my 2000 Ford Escort ZX2 5-speed that I currently use to deliver pizzas, which I bought when it was two years old and had only 10,800 miles on it.  If I had paid cash for it, I would have gotten a truly great deal…but that’s another post.

Meanwhile, we are paying off the only vehicle hubby has ever bought brand new, the 2005 Chevy Colorado crew cab.  Hubby still feels a little pride in the idea he bought it new off the car lot, but that is lessened by how many months, YEARS even, we have been upside-down in that loan.  The upside-down status turned rightside up this past August, and yes I marked it on a calendar!  Hubby “bought” the truck in November of 2005.

In my opinion, the strangest financial advice my FIL gave us was to not pay any extra on the truck note during the holidays…we should go out and “spend money and live a little.”  No kidding, that is what he advised us to do!  He said we will “always” have a car/truck note, so why bust our tails making extra payments?  Hubby’s home from South Korea after a whole year and we don’t know how soon he’ll get deployed, so we should go enjoy ourselves.  I was so glad when after FIL left, hubby said he thought we should at least do half of our extra payment.

FIL also spent some time trying to explain to me why people lease new vehicles, using a business perspective.  I guess I sort of asked for it when I said no matter how anyone explained a lease to me, it STILL sounds like expensive car rental.  My dad tried the other year to explain how leasing a car was smart.  FIL took the “business angle” on the leasing argument, and it still doesn’t make much sense to me.  I finally got the situation defused when I said we don’t have a business so it sounds like we shouldn’t lease “yet.”

Don’t get me wrong, folks…I don’t actively dislike my FIL.  I just for the life of me can’t understand where he is coming from.  Hubby says his dad can afford to pay cash for his new vehicles, but finances them to keep his credit score up.  And because of the credit score mentality, he doesn’t understand why we want to pay the truck off early.  He probably doesn’t understand why we paid off the credit cards either. 

Meanwhile, hubby and I eagerly look forward to the day when the only debt we have left is our mortgage…right now that looks to be in March 2008 or maybe the first week of April.  Instead of making monster payments  on the truck note, we will be able to make monster deposits into our money market account to build up a nice 3-6 month emergency fund, then a new CHA fund, then a house remodel fund…and let’s not forget a nice tuition fund!  Right now that truck in our driveway represents an obstacle to our financial goals, and will continue to be just that until it is paid off.

Oh, all this week, the M-Network has blogged about cars, trucks, or the lack thereof, check it out:

FPU Online FREE for Veterans

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Quick flash: until tomorrow, Wednesday November 14th, Dave Ramsey is offering his FPU Online FREE for all veterans and active duty military.  All you need to do is email and include your name, branch of service, dates of service, and valid email address you can be reached at.  This is Dave’s way of saying “Thank you for serving our country,” so jump on this offer!  I signed hubby up for it last night :) and just told him about it.

Speaking of hubby, he is finally home!  He spent 30 hours travelling and if a bit hyper at this moment after napping off and on during his various flights.  I will try to post a quick bit later this week, probably Thursday, but most of this week will be quality time with my husband in between class and work.

Thank a Veteran

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Today is Veterans’ Day, and I would like to remind everyone to thank a veteran.  If you are a veteran, like me, I still say thank you!  If you’re outside the country or far from home, then a big thank you.  If you can’t think of a veteran to thank off the top of your head, go down to your local VFW or American Legion.

Speaking of far from home: HUBBY COMES HOME TOMORROW!  Don’t be too surprised if I don’t get around to blogging this week :)  He’s been in South Korea for a year straight.  So I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight from the excitement.

Also, today I am going to continue a tradition my drill sergeants in basic training had: my 14yo son will watch some movies with me that will give him an idea that war isn’t glamorous, “heroes” simply do what they think is right, and this is what previous generations went through.  I have Hamburger Hill, We Were Soldiers, and Saving Private Ryan, and I hope we have enough time to watch all three after the cookout for the pizza store employees.

Which reminds me, I have to finish up the devilled eggs…

Musings on Debt

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Surfing around the internet today and yesterday, one would think the sky is falling here in the U.S.  Everywhere you look is a headline screaming the alarm about the stock market, the subprime mortgage situation, and of course debt.  Consumer debt.  Corporate debt.  Mortgage debt.  National debt.  Debt, debt, debt…credit worries, credit card worries, credit crisis.

Now, I’ll admit I’ve only had one semester of macro-economics, and I only got a B in it, but I am wondering why all this news is - well, news.  It’s not new news, because most of these problems were mentioned a while back.  The national debt clock has been going in NYC for a while…and now they are building a new one I have heard because the current one won’t have enough digits very soon.

The mortgage situation had been pointed out many times before this summer, but the ones saying it couldn’t last were dismissed like Cassandra of Greek legend.

Corporate debt has suddenly been thrust into the general spotlight, and just this morning I read my cable company is in hock up to their corporate ears.  Good thing I didn’t try to get a job there after the Army!  It also might explain the recent internet problems I have been having.  It’s somewhat ironic, since I cut back on cable TV for my get-out-of-debt effort.

Now it seems the big national media concern is consumer credit card debt.  There’s an AP story on it and one on CNNMoney on how they think it’s bad but they’re not quite sure yet.  And everywhere related to business and money on the web says the sky is about to fall…makes me glad I shut off the TV!

It’s kind of funny, in a sad way, because the alarms were there: Maxed Out and In Debt We Trust came out almost a year ago, and both documentaries said the U.S. was headed for trouble with credit cards and subprime mortgages.  Dave Ramsey has been saying it for years (y’all knew I would go there!) along with many others who are less strident about debt in general.

All of these warnings and alarms and “The sky is falling!” screams make me so glad I decided to get onto the get-out-of-debt plan back at the beginning of the year.  The end is in sight for us with the truck note scheduled to be paid off in the early spring, sooner if tips stay good for my weekend pizza delivering job.  I just worry about my parents, who are still in debt with auto loans and credit cards.  I also worry about friends and neighbors who are in that same situation.  I so badly want to reach them, but they see me living like I am in poverty and think the whole debt elimination idea is just not for them.  Hopefully when I am building up my big emergency fund and then my pharmacy school tuition fund they will see the sacrifices are worth it.

I just hope the sky doesn’t fall before then.

It’s Official! Less Than $10,000 of Debt Left!

Monday, November 5th, 2007

It’s official now!  We have less than $10,000 left of debt to pay off!  Hubby’s credit union finally processed the two payments I sent out last week towards the truck note and we only owe $9,962.21 on it!  We have just passed that psychological milestone and no longer owe “five figures” even though it only represents $635 worth of debt payment.

This feels like a big victory, even though we have paid off more than this at one time.  Strange, isn’t it?  The way the mind works when it comes to numbers…I don’t understand the mechanism behind it, since I only had general psychology and that was back in ‘02.  I can’t really explain it (anyone care to take a stab at it??) but I do like the the feeling it gives me.  Let me try to explain:

Back when I was in the army, we would get up once a quarter at “zero-dark-stupid” and put on a rucksack (fancy military word for a backpack) with 25 pounds in it then walk for 12 miles.  Usually by the 7th or 8th mile, I was feeling it.  Hubby was in the army with me at the time, even though we were just friends back then, but he would walk behind me and lift up on my rucksack, essentially taking the weight off my shoulders for a short while.  Having the truck note go down from five figures to only four figures feels about the same way.

Has anyone else felt the same way?

I Am Amazed…

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

So the email I was expecting to receive hit my inbox sometime while I slept overnight…hubby writes: “I am amazed at just what we had …er have going out.”  This is why I do these little financial retrospectives, because it simply IS amazing  how much money leaves us over the course of a month, a year…a lifetime. 

It’s a lot like when you get those statements from the government telling you how much you earned per year over your working lifetime and how much you qualify for in Social (IN)Security benefits.  There’s the brief moment of pride, when I say “Wow, I have made some money over the years!” quickly followed by the look around myself and the inevitable question “So, where has it all gone??”

That’s the whole point…even if I hadn’t come across the Dave Ramsey plan and decided to draw up a budget and pay off our debt….the money would have STILL left!  We would still have very little to show for it, except maybe a few more DVDs and a lot more eating out in all likelihood.  And we would still have all the bills we had at the beginning of the year, instead of being whittled down to only the truck note.  We probably would not have the emergency fund, because before I listened to Dave Ramsey such a simple concept simply didn’t occur to me.

This also reminds me of the first time I did up a budget.  I remember sitting there looking at the dry erase board, which said we had $600 leftover after paying all of our bills, and thinking “Where has all this money been going every month?”  Only this time, it’s on a ten-month scale, and this time we DO know exactly where the money has been going!  And that right there is an amazing turnaround.