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

May 25th, 2012 at 02:20 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 01:11 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 12:24 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

Text is Here and Link is https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoMxlCeYZJVRdE5VS1pwSFNlZ2FRS01XUGFlUXpTUGc#gid=0
Here is the spreadsheet for my projections of what we will need to make.

Accept BECU CC offer?

April 18th, 2012 at 12:07 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 12:45 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 10:15 am

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 28th, 2012 at 06:25 pm

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 12:15 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 13th, 2012 at 07:02 pm

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.