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Updates on CC's, EF, Groceries, etc.

May 25th, 2012 at 09:20 pm

I mentioned a few posts back that we would be focusing on our credit card debts. Well... That idea just took a blow when I remembered our car desperately needs tires. As in, we won't be able to drive this winter without them. As in, we were on an incline in Seattle last weekend and it was not even raining, and the tires slipped when I accelerated from a stop light going uphill. So, this is most definitely a priority!

The good news is that I have been putting in plenty of over time, and we already have $79 saved for it (State Farm reimbursed us for lockout assistance). It should only take one-half to two months to save for the tires. Smile

Speaking of lockout... None of you know this, but in the past year, we have - on average - been locked out of our car once per month. Last summer, the average was about three times per month, but the windows were down, so we did not have to get lockout assistance. And now that we are with State Farm, we have to first pay for the lockout, and then get reimbursement. Not cool! Allstate covered it, so long as you used an approved locksmith or towing company. Ah well...

But no more to fear! I ordered two keyless entry remotes from eBay for our car, totaling $16, and was able to program them myself, avoiding the $60 it would have cost. What a difference these make! See, before we got our current vehicle, I was used to vehicles with keyless entry. This one did not come with such a remote. It's about time we got them. Should save us the hassle! Smile

The Emergency Fund is stagnant at $900.

Credit Cards are slowly getting paid off, but since that is currently not our main focus, it will be much slower for the current time being. After getting the tires, I will continue putting in more time at work in order to get rid of these debts!

Really sucks that we were entirely credit card debt free (only debt was the car, with only a balance [then] of $3,500), and now we are not. Oh well. At least our situation is still better! Smile

Our grocery budget took a huge hit. If you remember our situation before moving to our new location, I was unemployed and the wife was working part time. Because of our low income, we were receiving around $520/mo in food assistance. Since we now gross about $2,200/mo, that has dropped to $171/mo. We contribute $80/mo from my income, so the grocery budget is now $251, or about $62/week.

We have done great with this, I think! The wife is baking much more (breads, rolls, etc.), we are buying in bulk (lentils, pasta, flour, etc.) from WinCo, and she is really enjoying it! And you can bet that I am too! Wink

So, don't mind me while I toot our own horns, but I am super proud of us. Smile

Our housing expenses are dramatically and unrealistically outrageous! Rent is $945. Power typically runs under $50. But we just got our bill for W/S/G (yes, they bill 1.5 months behind!), and it was $80! Oh my! That takes our housing expenses to $1,075/mo, or around 58% of my net income! Unacceptable! We are looking at other housing opportunities. However, with the area that we live in now, living outside of a controlled-access community does not sit well with me. It is not entirely a safe neighbourhood outside of here, and we have even had our fair share of auto theft, and the like. So, choose your evil, right?

I had the opportunity to get that promotion some of you have been hearing about. The $2 raise and all. My supervisor had it all lined up... One guy is leaving for California. So my supervisor was going to move two of us up the line. But, instead, his boss decides she wants to bring in someone from the outside and screw it all up for us. There is much more back story to this, but I would rather avoid the tell-all. Either way, she ticked off quite a few people with this executive decision, especially considering that is not how these companies are supposed to be run.

Anyways... We are holding on, and our quality of life is still pretty great. Got my wife and kiddo, a roof over our heads that, stable employment, and food on the table. Asking for anything more is just greedy. Smile

Just received benefits package...

May 3rd, 2012 at 08:11 pm

...And am pretty upset. It is the 3rd, and they are only giving me until the 14th to submit my packet, whether or not I decide to enroll.

Problem is, I have absolutely no idea what any of the terms mean. HMO, PPO, per admission, per visit, etc. And I don't see any costs anywhere. And then I have to look at Life, Dental, Vision... I have no idea where to start and they expect me to send this in with less than two weeks of preparation.

I was planning on getting at least health once my wife knew she was getting a position as a nanny, but I doubt we will know that soon...

Screw me!

Thinking of the Future... (Input?)

April 30th, 2012 at 07:24 pm

Have recently been thinking, again, going to college. I am 24 years old, wife and baby, and need to figure out what I'm doing with the rest of our lives.

In the career I am in now, I could end up getting promoted to Supervisor within five or so years. With that comes a free two bedroom apartment (with most employers). This would be fine and dandy, but we do not enjoy living in an apartment as much as we would renting or owning a home with a yard where we could plant a garden, have chickens, etc.

So, school may have to be the route I go. But I don't want to do just anything. I was thinking of nursing before, but that is not what would make me the happiest, I don't think. Being outside, with nature, animals, would do it, I think. So I have been looking into Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, etc. But as a working man, it will most definitely be hard. However, living in this new area, we have many more opportunities. There are online community colleges that offer two-year Associates that transfer to four-year colleges for a Bachelors. The online, I could do. But for the two years after that, I am not sure. We have cut costs everywhere we can, and things just keep getting harder. Trying to sell our car now, and it is proving most difficult. Also, our food assistance went down from $520/mo to $171/mo. Understandably so, but still - we cannot afford it! If we sold the car, yes, we could. Trying!

BTW, my wife is looking into doing some nannying. Smile

Here is the spreadsheet for my projections of what we will need to make.

Accept BECU CC offer?

April 18th, 2012 at 07:07 pm

Just got an email from BECU (my credit union) that says I am pre-approved for a $5,000 credit limit (current limits are $1,000 and $500) at 10.90% APR (current are 23%).

There is no annual fee for the first year, and after that it is $25/year.

I know the general idea is to avoid annual fees like the plague (which I do), but this seems like a great deal, and could help bolster my credit score. We would switch to using this card (instead of the Chase) for the first 90 days, as part of the promotion is that you get 2% back on purchases such as gas, groceries, etc. (all ones we use it for). However, the Chase card would remain our daily card, as it has cash-back at all times, rather than just the first 90 days.

What do you guys think? Despite the annual fee, get it?

EF up, CC's next!

April 11th, 2012 at 07:45 pm

Made some larger-than-normal deposits today, by way of refunds from the former insurance company.

We now have $1,119.91 in savings! Woohoo!

So we have $1,000 in EF, and $119 in the Auto fund (for repairs, maintenance, registration, etc.). We will keep that fund on hold and pay-down the credit cards with any further extra we may get. Smile

Also, in not-so-happy news, I did not get to do that job last Saturday. Unfortunately, people were concerned about it being a Conflict of Interest, due to the fact that our customer was a person at corporate. Ah well...

Determining a Strategy

April 4th, 2012 at 05:15 pm

As you know, we have been trying to decide whether or not to sell our car. We listed it for sale, then took it down. We are just not ready to see it go. A 2007 Focus with only 44,000 miles? Who would be? Our payment is only $136/mo. We owe $3,200. Insurance is now at $132/mo ($7 of which is for Renters Insurance). So we are doing a little better. It is nice to know that we can jump in our car on the weekends and know it won't die on us.

However, keeping this car means getting tires before the next winter. So that is $450-500.

But before we can do that, we need to tackle our credit card debt that we accumulated from moving over here for this better life (and believe me - I don't ever regret it!). That total comes out to $1,300.

Technically, we should be able to pay these down pretty quickly. However, our savings is pretty far behind. It is lingering at $770, which is not even half of a month's bills.

So, question: Should we build our savings first, or pay off the cards?

After getting the savings up, and credit cards back to zero, I plan on doubling-up on car payments.

All this and no health insurance for the wife and I. Hopefully, that will come soon...

I should have a $400+ side job coming up, as well as a promotion. I don't want to psych myself up for that one though, in case it does not happen.

Car, Work, Credit

March 29th, 2012 at 01:25 am

• Car

The most popular blog post currently is the one I made about asking for opinions on giving up the vehicle.

While we absolutely want to do this, it is looking as though we will not be able to. I only made it up half the monster hill. If we sold the car, and did not shop at the grocery store at the top of said hill, we would be doing all of our grocery shopping at Target. Umm... No, thank you.

Edit: However, keeping the car also means not getting health insurance for the wife and I. (Never mind vision or dental, which were both need.) It really saddens me that we have to choose between two fundamentally necessary things...


• Auto Insurance

Turns out that we got a better rate with State Farm. So, we are switching... Again. In order to avoid the sales pitches from Geico's money-hungry agents, I simply told them we sold the car because we no longer felt the desire to support the murdering of the earth. It worked pretty well...


• Promotion

There is a chance that I may be getting a promotion in a few weeks. This would mean a $2/hr raise, as well as learning more valuable skills. Smile

It is not, however, set in stone. Keep your fingers crossed for us!


• Credit score

My credit score has dropped DRAMATICALLY since charging all those expenses for moving. 26 points, or something like that. How unfortunate. Frown Still, our payments outweigh our spending, but I hate having a balance on these cards. >.

Updates on Auto Ins, Living, etc.

March 16th, 2012 at 07:15 pm

Hi all. Thank you for following. Smile

We got both Auto and Renters insurance switched to Geico. Only saving about $11/mo, but the Renters insurance is much more inclusive (though they do outsource it with another agency). Comes with Fraud/Identity Theft protection. Smile

Today, we are going to Lowe's to pic up some picture hangers (bought a canvas painting at IKEA with a gift card!), screws for our accent lighting in our bedroom, tarps for our bicycles that are stored on our patio, for sale signs for the car, and a tool or two for various things. Gotta start collecting tools if I want to move up from my current position at work. Wink Also need them for working on the bicycles.

Also, today, we may be going to look at an '80's Schwinn Le Tour bicycle for $45. It is of higher build quality than my '72 Schwinn Varsity, so it will serve as a parts bike for mine. If we are going to be riding our bicycles instead of driving a vehicle, then we might as well upgrade them a little bit where it is needed.

And also, we might be getting a new stereo installed in our car today or tomorrow. Our old one went bad, so we bought a factory stereo for $50. Installation will be $25. I would do it myself, but I have not successfully done it before, and do not want to screw up any electrical in the car, because we are prepping it for sale.

Yesterday, at work, I found a great looking couch sitting out at the "junk pile" where tenants put what they consider to be junk. More accurately, it is where I put stuff that tenants leave in hallways and trash rooms instead of doing what they are supposed to because they are too lazy and feel entitled... Haha.

This couch looks like a mid-century sofa. It has a nice floral print and has a hide-a-bed, and is on rollers. It's pretty awesome. We love mid-century styles, and our current sofa is scratched up and bulky and way too contemporary for us. You can actually find the same set at RC Wiley. Not our flavour at all!

I stored this sofa in one of our maintenance rooms that only three of us have access to, so that no one would jack it. Ha! The sofa has no scratches or anything on it. Only thing is that the arm rests are somewhat hard, so our little one may bang her face on it a time or two. Haha. Well, that is going to happen no matter what. Smile

We're excited about the sofa. Just need to figure out how to get our current one down five stories to put in the junk pile. It does not fit in the elevator, and there is a divider in most of the stairwells blocking entry from Parking Level 1 to Parking Level 2 (where the junk pile is). I'll have to figure out which one does not have that divider, and hopefully enlist my wife's uncle to help.

Oh! Almost forgot. A few weeks ago, someone threw away a somewhat older DSLR camera. It was set nicely in its nearly indestructible case, with two battery packs, two memory cards, and cleaning tools. There is no lens in there, but we have done some research, and they still make lenses for it. This particular camera (just the body is in there) is the Canon EOS D60. It was made in 2002, so it is missing some more modern features. However, it is still a very functional camera. With 169 different Canon EF-series lenses ranging from $150 to $2,000, there are plenty of choices. Smile We found one for $170 that would do us quite well. This camera retailed for $2,200 back in 2002. The body by itself still sells on eBay and Amazon for $200. Smile So, we are going to keep it. It turns on and takes pictures fine - just need a lens and battery charger.

Woohoo for working in Apartment Maintenance! Smile

On a more downward note, we still have running balances on our credit cards. Currently paying only a little above the minimum payments, but that will all change soon enough.

We have been thinking about what we would do with the money left from paying off the car after selling it. We should have around $3,000 - enough to pay off Sallie Mae and our credit cards. However, that would leave us with no money to purchase a vehicle if we find that we can indeed not go without a vehicle. So, maybe we will wait a month or two to pay them off. Or we may pay off the cards or Sallie Mae, and keep paying the other. What do you think?

By the way, the current estimation of how much we will be saving per month after selling the car and having dropped the smartphone plans, is over $400! Smile We will be allocating $50 of that to groceries (EBT benefits are decreasing) and $30 to clothing at first (need rain gear and bicycle clothing such as rain jackets), bringing the net savings to $326 per month! Also, we will be getting Washington State Basic Health plans for my wife and I, at $60 each, bringing the new net savings to $206 per month.

It should be a little more than that, because all of our budgets are rounded up and income is rounded down (by about $100/mo), and we have not factored-in our current difference between income:expenses. Just factoring in what we will be saving from dropping the car and phones.

Sounds pretty great, right?! Smile

Hiccup!

March 14th, 2012 at 02:02 am

When I first started working this new job, I set up our Idaho credit union account to receive direct deposit. However, since then, we have gotten a BECU account.

Well, the first direct deposit (second paycheck) went to the Idaho credit union. Not a problem. Until I transferred it to the BECU account... One, I forgot to leave money in the Idaho account for our auto loan payment (through the Idaho credit union, so the payment is instant when paying from that account's checking). Second, we switched to Geico for our auto insurance and - without thinking - I gave them our BECU account info. Once that transaction went through, it sent our BECU account into the negative. ACK!

Thankfully, however, we have a little bit in savings to cover it, and BECU does not charge overdraft fees immediately. I'm not even sure what their overdraft charge is, because I paid no mind to it, as I have not overdrafted since I was 18. Whoops!

Well, glad that is taken care of. However... I need to figure out why this transfer is working on four business days to get here... It is currently in limbo - has been for two days - so hopefully it comes tomorrow.

Allstate - We've Got Our Hands in Your Pocket

March 9th, 2012 at 09:26 pm

Recently, we moved from Idaho to Washington. We expected rates to go up a little bit. However, instead, they went up from $105/mo to $166/mo. Interesting...

So I have been in contact with our new agent, and she has been unwavering in the rate.

Yesterday, we got a bill from Allstate for $326.01. What?! I emailed to ask what the hike was for, and mentioned that we would cancel if we thought it was necessary. Her reply?

[quote]I understand you are dissatisfied with the current auto rate in Washington. If you wish to cancel the policy, please notify the effective date of this cancellation.[/quote]

Seriously? No explanation for the $326.01 bill. Nada. Our paper bill does not state why. Nor does our online one. I emailed her back, requesting that the policy be canceled immediately, and that we would like a quote for keeping us insured as drivers sans a vehicle.

Oh, the insurance business... So glad I did not get involved in it when I had the chance!

So it appears as though we may be going without a vehicle before even selling it. Ha! I also have some quotes going through with State Farm and PEMCO. We shall see how those come out.

Nothing has ever been as important as this issue in my lifetime...

March 7th, 2012 at 04:03 am

Stop Kony from abducting children and turning them into murderers.

This has been going on for two decades. What if it was your child...?

It only takes a couple of bucks...

We are doing this. So should you.

http://Kony2012.com/

AT&T may want $450

March 5th, 2012 at 01:27 am

We are going to check tonight, but here is the deal...

We want out of our iPhone contracts. Wife's is up this July. Mine is up November of 2013. Do not want to wait that long. Their Early Termination Fee for smartphone users is $325, less $10 for each month into the contract you are...

What if they do try to get us to do this? We do have that much in savings. But sheesh! Ugh! I would rather just tell them to shove it, but the prepaid phone plans we want are AT&T. >.

Sell the Car?

March 2nd, 2012 at 06:29 am



We have a 2007 Ford Focus. 44,000 miles (great for the year!). Great mileage. For us, at least - I hypermile, so I always exceed the EPA ratings. EPA ratings are 24/33, but I get 40 in the city. Rebuilt title. Needs tires.

Auto Loan: $3,400 - $136/mo
Auto Ins: $166/mo
Gas: $30/mo

We are contemplating selling. We do not want to, especially with its amazing miles, mileage, and reliability. However, take a look at this (not a pretty sight): Our budget.

As you can see, this leaves NO wiggle room at all. So, we need to trim the fat! We really cannot part with our phones. They are handy for when we do not have our bulky digital camera with us, and we have a daughter, so we need to capture those moments. It really is a fruitful part of our lives to be able to capture and share those moments, especially with being away from our families.

We could trim out our $32 in treats (Starbucks), which we have had to do before...

Student loans are already deferred, which I hate doing.

Rent cannot be trimmed. Nor can internet.

So that leaves the vehicle...

We have always wanted a VW camper. Why not get one if we do sell the car? If we sell the car for $7,500, we could have $4,100 left over to purchase a bus. Also, we could wait to get a bus while saving up more to get a better one. Good VW camper busses usually start around $4,000, but you should really look at spending $6,000 for one you won't need to do any serious work on for a couple of years. However, if we do end up spending $4,000 (and I have seen a couple of great ones for that price, but not very common), then I am thinking this: We will be saving at least $250/mo with not having to pay for the Focus anymore. So this could help us build a good savings again, since it was almost dwindled when we moved. Would help pay off credit cards we had to use for moving.

Here I am asking... What would you do? We like our car (don't LOVE it, but it is responsible). It is reliable, but if anything happened, we could not afford to fix it now. If we had an older vehicle (like the bus), we could afford repairs when it needed it. We could afford clothes (I am down to two pairs of undergarments and two pairs of socks, and the wife... Oh, man!). We could afford to get more clothes for our daughter (she has like five outfits and no rain-proof clothing; kinda need that here!). It would most likely be much better.

What do you all think?

Oh! One more thing! I have a contact that works on and sells (and know others that do as well) classic VW busses. So we would only be getting into a bus that we knew everything about, and knew what we were getting into.

Auto Insurance Hike

March 1st, 2012 at 03:42 pm

Due to our recent move, our auto insurance with Allstate has gone by more than $60 per month! Our Renters policy, however, has gone down by $2/mo.

I have been emailing our new Allstate agent about trying to get the cost down, but to no avail. The agent's 'risk management professional' suggests that since I have two speeding violations and an accident, there is no lower rate. However, I have zero at-fault accidents. So what ever happened to Allstate's Accident Forgiveness deal?

I am starting to think it is not worth it anymore. Now that we have moved, our car should be even more insurance-friendly. It has 44,000 miles on it, and is six years old. It does have a restructured title, but they said it is not any more to insure - they just won't pay as much if it is totaled by me. Also, we are driving even less. Been here almost a month and have yet to even fill up on gas. We are averaging 20 miles per week. That is less than 1,000 miles per year. And, again, we now live in a controlled access area.

But, since we now live in a "more urban" place, it goes way up. Well, maybe I just won't insure the car anymore. It is breaking us. Our leftover after monthly expenses is now $54. Not sure how long we can last on that...

SaveUp!

February 15th, 2012 at 06:20 am

Found an awesome web site. Have used it twice. It is a play-to-win web site. You use tickets - which you earn for adding your accounts or by winning them, or even by paying down debt! - to play different games.

Rewards range from gift cards to loan payoffs to cars.

Have fun!

https://SaveUp.com/

Post-Move Finances

February 10th, 2012 at 09:49 pm

Hi everyone! I know some of you have been looking forward to hearing from me since we moved.

The move went well! I won't go into super details, but we are doing great! Almost everything unpacked, and we are on our fifth night here. I've worked three days at my new job. Basically, it's a dirty job. Dealing with dumpsters of trash and recycling, picking up garbage, etc. But, it's easy, it's good pay, and I may not be doing it for long...

The guy that I replaced is such a screw-up that I may be replacing him again! He was moved to the next position up, because they needed more people to work on getting apartments ready for move-in. When he was working my job, he left the dumpsters overflowing, didn't get certain things done, etc. What he's doing now basically includes painting and blending. Say you've got a hole in the wall from a picture nail. You fill it, let it dry, then fill it some more if it needs it. Then paint over it once it is flush with the rest of the wall.

Apparently he has not been doing well. Cracks in the paint, holes, not using tape to cut-in on different paints, etc. So, I heard thru the grapevine that our supervisor will be asking me next week to help do turns (what I just explained about making apartments move-in ready) with him. That basically means he is going to train me for the position that is above my current one. Hopefully that means that I will be able to receive a pay raise here soon.

Everyone I work with is very pleased with my work. They say they don't worry about something getting done with me at the helm. They say I picked it up faster than anyone else they've trained. Etc., etc. Makes me feel good!

As for the finances... Oh, boy! I'm not happy with the situation we got ourselves into, but we should be okay. Basically, we are in the same boat now that we were a year ago (a year ago, exactly, actually).

Here's the somewhat break-down:
Total Moving Expenses: $5,603
Chase Card Balance: $828
Target REDcard Balance: $260
Remaining Savings: $25
Remaining Fed Tax Returns: $292

Here is how we are going to handle this. Whenever I make a chard to one of the credit cards, I record the same charge in the checking account, so as to be sure that I have the money to pay the credit card. I know a lot of you do this. I wish there was a term for it... Anyways...

There is currently an actual balance of $1,769 in our Checking account, if you do not subtract the credit card balances from it. Here is why I mention this; If we were to pay our credit cards off, we would not be able to pay rent in full this next month. Why? I am going three weeks without getting paid here at my new job. You know, the whole pay period thing.

What we will do is pay the rent, and just pay down the credit card debt. This is what we had to do last year, unfortunately. This debt is less than before, but still important. However, this one should get paid off much quicker, due to our larger margin of debt:income.

So, not too bad, eh?

Keep an eye on the sidebar - Will be updating it more often, now that there will be more changes month-to-month. Smile

Washingtonians - Suggested Credit Unions?

January 28th, 2012 at 02:05 am

I love my current credit union, Idaho Central Credit Union. Moving to Washington is going to break that bond, however. Often times, I get out cash, and may need to put some back in. So, I need a local branch.

Any suggestions for the Renton area?

I know about the web sites that provide reviews and what-not. But, I want some input from you guys. Smile

Moving - Update

January 27th, 2012 at 02:42 am

Went and tried out one of the U-Hauls today. We will have to get a 14', because of the third seat. Would be nice if we could just get the 10', as we do not have any big items at all. Our heaviest item is our dining small dining table. Next to that is the iMac haha.

Found out today that we will not have to pay the deposits like normal tenants do. This will save us over $300.

However, our dog just went into heat. Ack! And she is scheduled to get her goods taken out on the 6th. We will have to pay an extra $25, bringing her spay to $125.

I have budgeted $250 for gas. However, gasbuddy.com's trip calculator seems to think otherwise. It is estimating only $100 to get there and fill up. Always better to over-budget! Smile

We found out today just which unit we will be getting. Somewhat, at least. Rent will be $952/mo for a 1 bedroom unit. Better than the $900 for the studio that we originally thought we were getting. Also, since these are "green" apartments, the average cost for utilities (just power) is $35/mo.

Here are the floor plans of the 1 bedroom units:






All come with a bar or island w/ bar, washer/dryer in unit, patio, patio storage closet, walk-in closet, coat closet, granite counter tops, cherry wood cabinets, black appliances, ceiling fans, and our choice of an accent wall.

The studio we would have gotten would have had the options of choosing our colour of counter tops and cabinets, would have had stainless steel appliances, and wood floors instead of linoleum. But whatever. Smile

I, personally, like the second floor plan shown above. I like that the kitchen and dining area are separated from the rest of the unit, somewhat. We would most likely use the dining area to put our little one's crib and stuff in. Would be a good little nook for her, until we upgrade in a couple years (or so) to a larger apartment.

Total estimated moving costs: $1,720
Total estimated bills/mo: $1,560
Minimum estimated income/mo: $1,600

Now, this is definitely cutting it close! However, we will soon be getting rid of our texting plan ($30/mo), will not be driving as much (budgeted $40/mo for fuel), and will be getting at least 40 hours per week.

How I came to the estimated income was taking my hourly wage x 160 and subtracting 15% for taxes. Now, I highly doubt 15% will be taken out for taxes, because the most I've had taken was 5% when I made almost $23,000/yr. Not sure how exactly that equates, but okay!

Anyways... We should be fine. If not, we will make sure we will be. We found a plasma donation center up there, so that would help us get at least $40/wk. Also, my wife wants to - sometime down the road when we can justify the $100 startup cost - become a consultant for Scentsy. If you've never had a Scentsy... They are awesome. Smile

Alright, I think this post has rambled on enough. Wish us luck! Smile

Moving - Job Offer!

January 26th, 2012 at 12:52 am

Hi all!

I am happy to report that I was offered a job in WA. This is great news! We will bring in more than we are now, and will be able to rent our own place. I will be performing apartment maintenance.

In order to complete this move, however, we will have to deplete our savings account (which is currently at $1,650) to zero. Ack! I have made a budget, and it looks as though we may even be forced to use the credit card.

While this is not at ALL what I want to do, I feel that it would be stupid of us NOT to. I will be making money right off the bat, will have full benefits within three months, and will be making even more as the years go on, as I will have plenty of room and opportunity for growth and promotion.

I will be working with my wife's uncle and his friend. Her uncle has been in the industry for over 10 years, while his friend - former assistant - started where I am, and became a supervisor within three years, and is now making $22/hr and gets free rent.

The planning is going well. We need to get our dog fixed before moving, and she decided that today was a good day to go into heat. Ack! Her appointment is on the 6th, so she will still be in heat then. We may have to pay the extra $25 to have it done while she is still in heat.

Anyways, wish us luck! You should be hearing more from me, as we will have much more going on. Smile

Career Opportunity - Your Input?

January 15th, 2012 at 03:44 am

I thought that some of you may want to hear about an opportunity I have coming up. 

The other day, we went to Starbucks for our weekly treat. While we were there, a woman not much older than ourselves took notice of us - mainly our beautiful little girl. (No matter where we go, she is always catching peoples' eyes!) We got to talking with this woman, and it turns out we have a bit in common, and she seems like a soul that could teach us a lot as well. She carries a small journal and writes in it throughout the day, rather than hunching over an iPhone, like so many of us (*cough*me*cough*). 

Near the end of our discussion, she grabbed my number and said she would pass it along to her husband, as his "company is always expanding and looking for sharp individuals." 

He called the next day and we arranged to meet at the same Starbucks this evening. A couple hours ago, we had that meeting.

This man came across professional and strong, comfortable in himself and his life. I had some doubts about him, however. I wondered if he was for real. He said things like "ambitious" and "self-motivated" to describe the type of people he looks for. He said he likes to work with people that are busy, that have more than one thing going on in their lives. He said those were the type of people that get things done. 

He asked some things about me. He asked a little about my work history, but mainly about me, as a person. My ambitions. Goals. Aspirations. Where did I see myself in one to five years, if I did find that career I was looking for. I told him, "I'll tell you - I can't describe my future, without describing my family. We take joy in the outdoors, the world, the people in it. My wife and I have a dream about owning a VW bus for camping and road trips. We want to homeschool our little girl." And then I mentioned that Idaho ranked 47th in quality of education... "We want to be able to bicycle more." More on that in a moment. Smile "We want to eventually make our home in Portland." Then he asked why we felt Portland was a good match for us. I told him, "What's not to love about Portland? Really. It's beautiful. It's bicycle friendly. There is loads a family can do there, and affordably! There's history. Portland is the most eco-friendly city in America. It's.... For us, it's that place. You round the turnpike to get onto the interstate that runs through the city and... You see the city itself for the first time... And you get goosebumps. Nowhere else is it like that for us." All he said was, "Oh wow." He actually didn't know exactly what to say to that. He seemed impressed. 

So what exactly does this guy do? He explained, a little bit. "We work with entrepreneurs... And we set them up with retailers... Most of our income is residual." 

Near the end of our meeting, he asked if making $50,000 a year, 10-15 hours a week was something my family could live with. I tried not to act impressed, as I am still skeptical. I told him, "That would definitely be a good figure if it worked that way." I had to come up with this response on the fly, and I think it was a pretty neutral one. 

We set up to meet again on Tuesday at 7:40p. We will meet at Starbucks, then go to his house. Hmm. He told me to bring my family so we could talk more in detail and decide whether or not it is a good decision for us to make. 


It sure sounds like a wonderful opportunity, does it not? What do you all think? 

I thought this sounded like something someone would rather hire a college graduate for...?

--

We got a bicycle trailer for the little one! Finally! It's a Burley D'Lite two-kid stroller. Or, if you're us, one kid and a Miniature Schnauzer! Smile It also converts to a jogging stroller, which is what we have been looking for. If you look this one up, it retails anywhere from $500-700. How much did we get it for? $100. Smile 

We sold my massage table for $180, put $80 into our birthday trip fund, and $100 for the stroller. We think we got a great deal. Smile 

Amazon Free Shipping - Short by a little & don't know what to get?

January 12th, 2012 at 08:46 pm



I am a fool for Amazon.com's FREE Super Saver Shipping. And here's why: If you spend just a little more, you can usually end up getting something basically for free, when you figure that that money would have been used for shipping.

Earlier this week, we went out to the car to find that some idiot had broken one of our wiper blades. The same person also got into another person's car. Well, I am pretty sure that the wiper arm is okay, so I just need a new blade. Straight from the manufacturer, these blades are $30. No thanks! So I looked at AutoZone and similar places, to find blades for the same price, but of much better quality, such as the RainX blades.

Then I read about silicone blades. These things last for YEARS, rather than the recommended six months. And they keep on working! And, guess what... Retail price is $25!

So I did some hunting, and found the same ones on Amazon for much cheaper! To be exact, the driver side (a 22" blade) is $14.27, and the passenger side (a 19" blade) is $10.40. Altogether, that is just under $25.

Well, as most of you know, FREE Super Saver Shipping kicks in only at $25, on eligible items. So I browsed my Save For Later list, and realized that I had some Kool Stop bicycle brakes on there for my '72 Schwinn. SWEET!

Added those to the cart and the total came to just under $35, $5 cheaper than if I had ordered just the blades and paid for shipping. HA! Take THAT, Consumerism! And I got all those for less than one blade from the manufacturer. Smile

So, if you think you're just going to have to buck up and pay for shipping, remember to check your lists. If you can't find anything in there cheap enough, there is this super awesome tool, called the Amazon Item Filler. You simply enter the amount that you are short on receiving the FREE Super Saver Shipping, and it finds items in and around that amount. Alternatively, you could always enter the difference between the total for shipping, and the current amount of the items you have. In my case, this would have been about $10.

Here are links to the items mentioned in this article:
edit: For some reason, links are not showing up when using vB code or HTML... >.<
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00029X5WO/ref=oh_o00_s00_i00_details - Silblade (choose your size - don't know it? Amazon does!)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001SYM690/ref=oh_o00_s02_i00_details - Kool Stop Continental bicycle brake pads
http://www.filleritem.com/ - Amazon Filler Item Finder

Interview Coming Up w/ Farmers

January 9th, 2012 at 10:03 am

I received a voice mail this evening from Farmers Insurance Group wanting to interview me for a position I applied at there. They're the only employer that has called me back, so I guess I'd be stupid not to go! Ha!

Question is... If I did get the job, would I really want it? Answer to that is, "Doesn't matter - you need it!" I have heard that insurance sales persons can either make super great salary, or super poor salary. I've read (on glassdoor.com) that you have to dedicate all of your time to be successful.

Anyone know someone in the biz or anything?

Still waiting to hear from my wife's uncle about the job in Seattle. He does not know yet.

Target REDcard

December 16th, 2011 at 06:16 pm

We opened up a Target REDcard last night. Credit limit is only $500, but we don't even spend $100 there each month, so we are plenty happy with it. Smile

It's nice being able to keep your credit open, and this card is just going to help do that even more. We won't have to charge the Chase card as much, as we get our Toiletries and Household Items from Target. Smile

Some New Possibilities (Employment)

December 14th, 2011 at 04:43 pm

So, a lot of you know that I have been having trouble making time for studying to pass the Math COMPASS for college. Doesn't make sense, does it? A personal finance blogger not being great at math... Ha!

We have some recent semi-developments that may help to answer a few of our questions. My wife's uncle lives in Seattle and works as an Apartment Maintenance Supervisor. He makes a little over $20/hr and his rent is free. And he says that all supervisors' rent is free, no matter the company, as far as he has seen. He says to start from the bottom, you make around $12-13/hr, 40+ hrs/wk, and get about a 30% discount on rent. That may work for our situation. We may even be able to get off of food stamps (or may get forced off them). Anyways, he said he should know by as late as January if he has any openings that he could put me in.

It would take a few hundred dollars to move out there, but it would be worth it if it meant getting out of our current situation and still being able to keep up with our bills. As a recap, our expenses (including toiletries and what-not) now are 100% of our income, since taking the huge cut in income.

Also, my wife remembered that one of her father's cousins works in Corporate for Albertson's. That same cousin offered my wife's mother a job just a few months back. If she could get in there, it would be more than she is making now. She did learn, however, that her current employer is keeping her on after the holidays (that was a given) and that her work week would be at least 28 hrs/wk in the same area of the store (those were not a given). So, it would be a hard decision for her to make.

It is nice knowing that we may have some options, though. Working as a "maintenance man" is not exactly what I had in mind for my future, but there comes a point when you have to realize your possibilities vs your dreams. While I am still studying vigorously for the Math COMPASS, I am not ruling out other possibilities. If I were to become a supervisor in three years (like he and someone he'd trained did), we would have free rent and be making $38,000/yr. Factor in the $2,200/mo rent that his apartment goes for, and that's easily $64,000. That's pretty good, if you ask me. It would take a lot of hard work and dedication, however, especially for me. I have only worked three physical labour jobs (drywall taper assistant, plumbing apprentice, carpet cleaner), and only at one of those jobs did I actually learn something... Scratch that. Only at one of those jobs was I actually taught something.

I just want to be able to contribute to retirement, a college fund for the wee one, be able to afford one nice new-used car at a time, and help my wife attain her dream of owning a coffee shop. All doable if I were to stick with the apartment maintenance profession, considering I were to get it in the first place.

So, keep your fingers crossed for us. Prayers. Good vibes. Whatever ya got! Smile

Fooducate Yourself

December 10th, 2011 at 06:09 pm

Yesterday, we finally got a chance to use a new iOS app that my wife found the other day.

Using the built-in barcode scanner (or by typing in the name of the food product), you can instantly view the health information about that item. It will give you a letter grade ranging from F to A+. It will then break down the information into things such as calories per serving, how it ranks on a dieter's theoretical list, etc. And, the best part, this app also informs you as to the content of that item. Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, and it will tell you that. It will also tell when an item's packaging contains BPA. Or, hey, how about that Smart Balance vegetable spread that your doctor recommends? How about the fact that it contains TBHQ and EDTA? Bet your doctor didn't tell you that! I also bet you wouldn't have guessed that Bush's reduced sodium kidney beans are considered one of the healthiest!

For those that are looking to really get away from the CRAP found in your everyday foods, this is a really awesome app for you!

Fooducate - web site - App Store



Fooducate - web site - App Store

The Reason - Responses?

December 2nd, 2011 at 07:23 am

Recently, my wife has been looking into going to school. If you remember, she is now the one working, while I am a stay-at-home-father and practicing my poor Algebra skills to retake the Math COMPASS for entry into college. She has been looking at the Paul Mitchell school - something she has always considered doing. She would receive 2,000 hours in Cosmetology training. We have thought about this. The school's job placement rate for new grads is 86%. Pretty good. Average salary is about $24,000/yr. "That would help us get out of our living-with-family situation," we think. Then we realize that we would also lose Food Stamps, which is over $400/mo. So, to make up for that, pay our current bills, plus pay her tuition, and put $700 towards rent and utilities, we would have to net $2,000/mo. On one income...

We are still donating plasma, but it is not the $440/mo that we have hoped it would be. While that is the max potential (two people, two 'donations' per week), we have found that it is not always possible for us to do so. So, it has turned out to be around $100/mo. 

Also, I have taken it upon myself to try to find odd jobs to do. This has come to me in the way of oDesk.com. It is a freelancing/contracting web site that appears to have some threads of truth to it. I have been working on my résumé in order to make myself more desirable, so I have yet to apply to any contracts yet (limited number of applications per week). So I do not know how that will pan out. 

Anyways... While the job placement percentage is decent, it is an $18,000 tuition in a field where the demand comes strictly from desire rather than from need. The clients are there because they want to be. Because they are able to afford it (or at least have some credit left on their cards). I am still paying off my $18,000 tuition from when I went to school for Massage Therapy. I am a great Massage Therapist. Great technique. Great form. Wonderful pressure. Superb personal skills. And that sixth sense that a lot of MT's don't have, but wish they did... And yet, I have never been employed in the field. 

What are we to do? We live off of $600/mo. We live in an oppressive and downright dangerous environment where the downstairs wreaks of cat feces and occasionally marijuana, where the other residents do not take into account the welfare of the infant in their house, etc., etc. We have been married over a year and a half, and have been together for longer, and have not once lived in a place of our own! 

This. This is the point of all that we strive to do, financially. Money is the only thing that can change our lives at this point.

What are we to do? Suggestions for my wife? For me? 

Thank you for reading.

Credit Limit Increased

November 26th, 2011 at 03:18 am

Due to our exceptional payment history and near-excellent credit, our credit limit with Chase Freedom (our only credit card) was increased. I did not receive notification of this, but learnt just tonight by way of checking to make sure our most recent payment went through.

This is very good news for us! Not only will this look great on our credit report, but it will also make using the card much easier! The starting limit was a measly $500. It doubled. Considering that we only spend about $700/mo, we will now be able to use the credit card without having to make multiple payments a month.

We did have to flop our budgets around. We realized we were not spending as much on baby items as we thought, so we increased our pets budget, which was much needed!

Doing pretty well for being on such low income (all things considering, besides the fact that we do not live in our own place).

Other than that, there is not much else going on in the way of finances.

We did find this awesome new body wash soap that we are using instead of bottled body wash. It is Black African Shea Butter bar soap, costs $6 at Target, is all natural, and lasts much longer than liquid bottled body wash. It also smells much better and leaves our skin much softer.

It's Not Always About Money

November 15th, 2011 at 12:31 am

While our little one sleeps, I get to listen to my niece and nephew fight. That's somewhat normal in today's world... Then, their dad (my brother) comes home. What's he do? Comes home, yells at them, and says, "Pack your s***, you're going to your mom's and I'm moving to the homeless shelter!" Then proceeds to yell at our mother about how he has to live in the basement when Molly and I could easily fit with the baby down there (ugh, mildew and mold with a baby, anyone?). Then yells about how he doesn't want to live anymore and how he needs to shoot himself. I'm tempted to offer him my rifle, but he would probably go on a frenzy on everyone else. This is the world (house) we live in. It's not just about money. It's about emotional stability. Unfortunately, money would help to secure that.

We live in my parents' house. Where the plumbing is corroding (a simple $1,200 fix that should be no problem for a couple that makes $60,000/yr), there's a sinkhole in the back yard (free fix - they have yet to get ahold of their contact, and it's been over six months), and the relatives are absolutely certifiable!

I don't know what to do or how to do it. The only thing I can think of is going to college (been my goal for a while now), but that will only make things harder...

My wife's mother is most likely moving into a place (out of her mother in-law's) that is 50 miles away. That would equal a 100 mile commute each workday for my wife. In one day. My wife's parents work and go to school here in town, as well as her sister. But her youngest sister goes to school in the town that is 50 miles away. So, three people are accommodating for one. Makes sense, eh? My wife and I have offered to pitch in for rent if they were to move here. The way they see it, however, is that since rent is so cheap out there, it makes up for having to drive so far. But it does not. They just don't keep track of their finances, so they've no idea.

Nerve-racking to say the least! Stuck between insanity and too far away.

Moving Away from the CC

November 11th, 2011 at 07:07 pm

If you remember my last post, Our Credit Card Usage - Your Input?, you'll recall that we are not exactly happy with our method of usage. We have been using the credit card to pay for everything. And then we pay it off. However, it has shown to be an issue sometimes when it comes to pay the card. Such as last night.

Last night, there were no more pending transactions, so I paid the balance. However, today I check, and there is a balance of $85.67. Which is the total of the most recent transaction, sans the payment from last night. So, thinking Chase may have made a mistake, I download all my transactions and past into Pages, then get the sum for all transactions. Nope, turns out to be -85.67. So Chase is not to blame entirely. However, as it is shown on my account statement, the payment comes in after the transaction. And, remember, the transaction was posted when I made the payment. Not pending. So it looks like it takes some time for their system to show an updated balance after the transaction goes through. Strange.

Granted, I should know exactly how much the payment should be. I was doing this initially. However, I have since stopped. Why? Not too sure. Possibly because of all of the changes in our life recently, and taking on new responsibilities myself.

I am thinking that we will no longer use the credit card for absolutely everything. We will use it on items that are included in the 5% revolving categories, as well as monthly fixed payments. Unfortunately, most of my bills are paid from my checking account (because they do not accept credit cards), so we will definitely not be getting as many rewards points. However, I must remember - rewards points are just a gimmick. A tool used to get you to spend money. So, if I focus on the rewards points, rather than keeping our finances simple, then I will lose track.

Wish us luck! Smile

Our Credit Card Usage - Your Input?

November 8th, 2011 at 08:52 pm

I have been using the Chase Freedom credit card for a couple of months now, paying off the balance every two weeks or so.

So far, it has gone okay. However, I somehow feel that I am overspending whenever I use it, even though it is for budgeted items. Also, the way Chase updates their account statements online has lead to some issues. It's also a hassle to manage two accounts as if they were one.

So we are thinking about not using it for everyday purchases anymore. The 1% on all purchases is great, and the 5% categories is pretty awesome too. But, for some reason, it feels like it is taking too much effort to manage. I don't know... It's hard to explain, really.

However, using it has - I believe - helped to raise my credit score. I am now only 11 points from entering the 'Excellent' credit score range.

What do you guys do with your credit cards?


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