I spent some time working out the May budget today. May is a three paycheck month for us, so I had to sort out how much extra there is going to be and where it goes. We have licensing tabs coming due on both vehicles one on May 25th and one on June 4th, so both of those have to come out of the May budget.
I hate that both vehicles come due at the same time. If we had bought the truck instead of inheriting it, I'd have made sure we purchased it at least two months off. I know I could plan for this better, but I always forget to, knowing we can absorb the costs. It just means that there won't be any money to the Holiday Fund or the Laptop Fund this month. That $200 is going for tabs, plus a few dollars more.
Most of that extra is going to pay a credit card bill so we don't have any interest. We had to make a lot of purchases in April and also made some purchases we didn't have to make (getting takeout a lot due to exhaustion on my part) and had some unexpected medical bills come in that I charged.
We shouldn't be getting anymore for our daughter so I think something may have crossed in the mail with when she hit her out of pocket max and when it was actually credited. We've had this happen before. We are trying to track that down and see if this most recent bill can be resubmitted to insurance. If not, that'll be about $1100 out of the emergency fund.
If I have to take it out of the EF then I will cut back on debt repayment to get that money replaced, but I will still pay at least $1000 a month on debt repayment while we do that. It should only take a month to replenish the EF that way.
I will still be able to pay off $1200 in loan debt to Mom this month.
Like Amber, I am going to try for a no eating out month. I've got my meal plan set for the week and I made it with some easier meals for the weekend when we do the most garden and yard work and I tend to get wiped out. Besides, I lose weight better when we are not eating take out.
Speaking of weight loss, I was able to get into 2 pairs of Capri pants that are a smaller size then what I am currently in. I can sit down in them, but it makes them a little tight around the belly, so I need to lose another inch or two off that to want to do more than walk around in them. I am hoping by the end of May when the really hot weather is here that they will fit comfortably.
I have several other pairs of Capris, shorts, and jeans that are the same size as well and I am almost down a t-shirt size and when I am, I will be able to wear several of the shirts hanging in my closet. If this keeps up I will have a fairly nice summer wardrobe available to me at no expense.
I need to go find my sewing machine in storage. I've got some mending to do on some seams and it is too much to hand sew. The one seam unraveled in a foot of fabric and I have a sundress with a slit that goes to mid-thigh that I'd like to sew up. With the wind we have, it can get embarrassing to wear that dress outside. It has a loose enough skirt that goes down to near my ankles, so sewing it up won't impede my walking at all.
My limit these days is sewing on new buttons, replacing bra hooks or eyes, and repairing one to two inch rips in clothes. My hands don't really handle more with the RA. It is worst in my hands for fiddly work, although they are somewhat better with the Enbrel.
Viewing the 'Bringing Down the Evil Empire' Category
I spent some time working out the May budget today. May is a three paycheck month for us, so I had to sort out how much extra there is going to be and where it goes. We have licensing tabs coming due on both vehicles one on May 25th and one on June 4th, so both of those have to come out of the May budget.
Despite the fact that it has been since July, it still feels strange to not get paid weekly. I mean, we budget for two weeks and it isn't like anything needs to be done during that time period after the bills are paid, but maybe that is the problem. I am so used to being hands-on on a weekly basis and now it is like it is set for cruise control and I'm there, but there is nothing for me to do unless I see an accident coming up ahead.
DH and I have started watching the Financial Peace University videos. We had started a while back and then life got busy. We decided to restart from the beginning and I am glad we did, because they have completely revamped the presentation. And what's really neat is that DH knows one of the guys in the video doing the testimonials. He worked with him up in Alaska.
We took a big step and cut up all but one credit card. DH is cancelling them, too, but the idea of cutting them up just seems so huge and something we have really both been resisting. We are keeping the one for auto pays, as I've had them double charge too often. Yes, they fix it in a couple of days, but if you double charge on a debit card and there isn't enough money to cover that, you get fees and it is such a mess to sort out even when it isn't your error. I feel more secure having the auto pays on a credit card for that reason.
Now you could say that we could just keep extra in the checking account, but we run a zero based budget, so that makes it difficult, as we don't keep a huge cushion in there. I know we can do it, but I'm just not sure we are 100% there yet. There is also the fact that with the debit card they can put a hold on your account. A hold on a credit card with a huge limit is not that big a deal, but a hold on money in your checking account is.
I know that I am justifying. I just think that when we only use it for travelling and auto pays and it is paid in fully each month, and we are as disciplined as we are, we can handle it. One day when we have enough money to have a large cushion again, we can go fully to debit, but that will not be until after the loan is paid off and we've saved at least 3 months of expenses. We will get there, but we are not there yet.
Personally, I want to do the part where you stop all retirement contributions until you are out of debt, because I think we'd be out of debt by the end of the year that way, but DH is against it. He's the one who wanted to do Dave Ramsey in the first place, but he doesn't actually want to "do" Dave Ramsey. Just the parts he agrees with. I get all his arguments, I agree they make sense logically, but I just want to be out of debt.
I don't mind doing retirement while saving up the full EF, but I want to be done with this debt. It frustrates me, because I feel like if you are only doing things halfway, it'll take twice as long, if not three times as long. I am so tempted to call Dave's show and ask him what to do about this. Of course he'll tell me to get rid of that last card, but he'll also tell DH to knuckle under to the plan. I think maybe some straight-talking from the man himself is in order. Or maybe I'll just email him.
We have been debt snowballing for as long as I've been blogging here. Not on the Dave Ramsey plan, just debt snowballing. And having a small EF. And it worked, but I don't think it worked as well as it could have if we'd been all in and had refused to take on any more debt (like the car purchases we made along the way). And we still aren't all in. We're 3/4 of the way in. Well, I'm 3/4 of the way in. DH is 1/2 of the way in. And while he is more of the free-spirit than I am financially, he still qualified as a nerd on the financial nerd vs. free spirit test. One more point and he'd have been a free spirit, though. I only had one free spirit point and seven nerd points.
In other news, I signed up for my Enbrel co-pay card. It should be here in a couple of days and then I can call the mail-order pharmacy and get the shots shipped to me. I am really hoping this will help me function better on a day to day basis. I'm not thrilled with the side effects of the drug, but the side effects of RA are at this point making it worth taking the risk to see if it helps. It may not even help.
In other, other news, the Girl Scouts are out with their super aggressive cookie sales and behaving as badly as ever at a store near you. I will be so glad when cookie season is over. Meanwhile, I will shop in the mornings instead of the afternoons, and see about making a small contribution to Campfire USA. I've never had a kid from there block the doors, grab my cart, and shout that I had to buy their cookies because they were almost at their goal. No, entitled munchkin, I do not.
I got the shower and tub cleaned today. I still need to do the sliding doors and the little shelves, though, but I will do those when I shower. It's easier. I used Barkeeper's Friend. It is amazing. We are keeping up with the kitchen so far and not letting it devolve into chaos again. Tomorrow's goal is to clean off the top of the bathroom vanity, clean the bathroom sink, and sweep the bathroom floor. Well, that's my goal.
DH's goal is to get the little section between the fridge and the cabinets cleaned out and to clean behind the fridge. And then if either one of us still has energy to take care of the armchair that has turned into a catch-all. We will get organized this year if it kills us.
DH and I found a church website that has put up the Financial Peace University lessons and we have been watching those. We watched the first two on Friday night and the second two on Saturday night. We might get another one or two watched tonight. I wish we had money in the budget to purchase it, but we don't and we don't have time to go to a class together anyway with DH working so much overtime.
DH had to work a few hours yesterday and he's at work right now as well, just for 2 or 3 hours. They are finishing up a package that was wanted for Monday, but the stuff needed for it didn't get to him and the other guy until Friday at the end of the day. He will adjust his schedule this week accordingly, since they are only allowed 15 hours total of OT per week. The work week there ends on Friday so any work this weekend counts on this coming week. That seems weird to me since every where else he's ever worked or I ever worked started their payroll week on a Monday and went through the weekend.
This last paycheck had a few more dollars on it than the one before due to the change in insurance. It was a difference of $14 and some change. So that'll be $56 a month difference from the old insurance to the new one.
DD had a couple of prescriptions filled this week and they were $0. So I guess the company did carry over the fact that she'd hit her deductible and her out of pocket max like they said they would. That's good, because we still don't know what is coming up with medical expenses in her future.
She got her ACTH stim test results in her patient portal on Friday, but we never heard from the doctor. I am assuming he hasn't had time to look at it yet or wanted to consult with the endocrinologist first. From what we can interpret from the test, there is something wrong with both her adrenals and her pituitary.
I'm trying to get her to not jump to conclusions and to wait until we've spoken to the doctor and to not try and diagnose herself. Personally, I think she has Addison's disease and possibly Hashimoto's. Both are auto-immune diseases. We know she has an undiagnosed auto-immune disease due to blood work in the past.
I just hope we get actual answers this time. We have been chasing this thing for years now. I have wondered if the brain damage that happened when she cracked her skull and had the stage 3 concussion 8 years ago damaged the pituitary in some way. That is when all of these symptoms started and they have just become more aggressive as the years have gone by.
Hopefully we will hear from the doctor on Monday. If not, I will give them a call on Tuesday.
I did spend the rest of the grocery budget. I made a quick run to Trader Joe's and spent $52 there and then to Safeway and spent $17 in groceries there and an additional $4 plus tax out of the household envelope for a box of 100 count multi-sized bandages. I can't find where I put my receipts so I can't do a break down. Oh, well. The point is I got everything I needed this week and the budget envelopes are working as intended.
DH finally made it over to the credit union to order his debit card. Since we had never done one on that account we had to go in in person to get one. I sent for mine last Friday, but DH kept forgetting to go over and do it.
I finally managed to track it down and Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Ting all accept VISA debit cards as long as they are not one time use cards. So once my debit card arrives I will switch those accounts over to debit. I need to look on my credit card statement for due dates for each service. Well, I know when Netflix is due, but the others. We do have some other things that come out periodically, like Sirius, which runs our up to the minute GPS traffic warnings in the car as well as satellite radio, and Shockwave, and my son's Proactiv which comes every 3 months.
We have so much Proactiv I will probably cancel that, they send far more than you need. If we don't get to those before we cancel the credit card, it'll kick it back to us in an email and we can fix it then. I know Sirius will bill and you can send a check so I don't imagine debit will be impossible.
I also have my monthly eye supplement, which can use a debit card as well, but I might cancel it. I seem to be getting as much benefit from taking double doses of vitamins E and A. I'm going to try going without the supplement this week and if it makes no difference, I will drop it. I started using it before the vitamin regimen and it helped, but I'm not sure if it still is. Now that I have the new glasses, it is a good time to test it.
You know, in the beginning I was very overwhelmed with the idea of stopping all credit card use. I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to do, let alone something I could even pull off. I really wanted to hold on to my Costco Citi card, because of the cash back. But when I really think about it, we aren't using the card like we were. Our Costco trips are now under a strict budget, so $400 to $500 monthly visits no longer happen. We don't use the gas station anymore because they don't take cash and I don't want to use a debit card where it is very likely there might be a skimmer. I'm not sure we'll earn enough cash back to pay for the membership anymore.
So that makes it all easier to give this card up once everything is switched. And the Master Card will go. The last one to part with is the Alasaka Airlines Visa. DH is having a hard time with that one. He does have a point that having one for travel, where they put holds on a chunk of credit at hotels and car rental places, will be easier with a credit card. But just because we hold with the credit card, doesn't mean we need to pay with the credit card. Though I do think we'd have to make one or two minor charges a year just to keep the card from being cancelled.
I don't know. One step at a time. AMEX is gone. Citi is next. Then we will kill the MC. We were keeping that one, so DD would have something for emergencies, and then I remembered that we can put some money on a pre-paid debate card that she could keep on hand for an emergency at such time as she might need to use it. With her current health issues, she doesn't go anywhere without us, so it's not as big a deal as it once was.
Then we'll see about the air miles card. Having one card we use periodically until we qualify for a mortgage may just be the road we take. It is our oldest card, so carries a lot of our debt history with it. There are some practical reasons for keeping it and we are completely responsible with credit cards, so I don't really think it will be an issue to keep it. But...I don't know. Is there such a thing as too much Dave Ramsey ideology? Why is it so hard to just let go?
DH got a letter from the IRS today saying that someone had used his social security number to gain employment. They don't give out any specific information because apparently their system doesn't keep track of who used it, just that it was used somewhere that didn't jibe with their information on him, i.e. someone from a different state while he's earning in this one. They really ought to track that better.
This is not the first time this has happened. It happened back before we were married in the early 90's. When DH lost his job due to injury and had to file unemployment it was something that popped up on his list of jobs. It got taken off at that time. It was someone working a job in surprise, surprise, California who was an illegal immigrant. It's probably the same situation this time. Irritating.
So I've taken care of my side of things, setting a fraud alert on my accounts and pulling all three of my credit reports and going over them, since all my stuff is linked to his. My stuff is all correct. I don't think this is related to the fraudulent credit card use last month, but we just don't know. DH still has a fraud alert from then, but he needs to check his SSA account and pull his credit reports as well. All of it can be done easily online, thank goodness.
I cancelled our AMEX cards today. I had been planning on it anyway, but this letter spurred me on to get it done. They did not want to let me leave, but were very polite. I just kept saying no that I wanted to cancel and that I didn't want any other perks or cards. Honestly, after the supreme court ruling on what they can do with their business practices, I don't think I could ever use them again anyway.
I know we still have to cancel the Master Card. Baby steps. It is hard letting go of our credit. I know that it is the direction we really want to go in, but I didn't think it would be this hard to give up the ones we don't even use. It is psychological. It did feel good cutting up the AMEX cards, though. DH is the primary card holder on the MC so he will have to take care of that one himself.
Then the question will be do we want to do the Costco Citi card or the Alaskan Air Visa. Since we are only spending cash at stores now, we don't really need the Costco card. But I do want to get my cash rewards from it. And it doesn't look like DH will be going back to work in Alaska again (things look promising at work), so keeping the BoA is probably not necessary, except it is our oldest card and we will be wanting some credit history at least until we buy a new house and something for the auto pays to be on at places that don't accept debit or electronic checking. Plus for hotels and car rentals on future vacations. I know what Dave Ramsey says, but I'm not sure I want to make my life that difficult. They would be rare exceptions for credit card use and actual payment would be with the debit card, just using the credit card to hold things.
I am looking into Identity Theft insurance. We can get the whole family insured for $145 a year. This problem can get much worse and they will deal with it if it does. I know my daughter's info was breached because her high school sold all the information from the kids without permission to a company and then that company was breached, so it would be good to do all of us. I wish we didn't live in a world where this stuff happens, but we do.
I think we are starting to see the first bit of fall out from the Equifax breach. Today someone tried to use our Master Card. This was always a card we rarely used, but we have not used in 2 months for sure. And it was for some service called NEVERBOUNCE, that cleans up email list servers or something like that. Not something we would ever sign up for. They tried to charge it three times.
Fortunately BOA was on the ball and temporarily froze the account. I had to fill out the fraud form, which is really easy online. Then they will likely be calling DH to confirm what I did online.
Tonight we are going to cancel the Master Card. Since we will be eliminating all but one card until I can figure out how to do everything through debit cards, auto bank deductions, and paypal, we might as well get started with this one. No more dragging our heels.
I know a couple of you have been through some identity theft issues before. If I freeze my credit through the three reporting agencies will that prevent me from using my card at all, or just prevent anyone from opening up a new credit card account or loan?
We won't be taking out new cards or any kind of loan until we are ready to buy a house again and need a mortgage. That is a few years down the road, so freezing our reports won't affect anything in that regard. Then when we are ready to apply for a mortgage we will unfreeze them.
I don't usually buy books, but I made a book purchase on Saturday. Yes, my library does have this book, but I was 13th on the waiting list. High demand books mean that people can only keep them out 2 weeks instead of 3, but that was still looking at a possibility of 26 weeks before I could read it, assuming people turned it in on time. Most people don't.
So I handed over my cash, $27.51, to the young man at B&N, who tried to sell me a membership card, but no. I don't buy books often enough to earn back and then benefit from the savings. What book did I buy, you may be asking by now? Well, I finally gave in and decided to read Dave Ramsey. I bought The Total Money Makeover.
I have been avoiding Dave Ramsey for the last 12 years, to be honest. Yes, I did do a debt snowball, but I didn't know about it from reading him. I just figured doing it like that would make me feel like I was making progress faster. Yes, I did build and keep a $1000 emergency fund before doing it, but that was on advice from people here, not based on his method. Although it probably was, since a lot of you have read him. But I wasn't going to.
It wasn't that I thought he was bad or anything. I just didn't want to give up my paid off credit cards. Well, I did give up some of them, but we still have 5. We pay them off in full each month. But...oh, and here's the big but, I've been feeling for a while that we weren't using them responsibly enough, because they are just too easy to use.
But my chiropractor's office plays Dave Ramsey and I kept hearing him on my visits. And then he came up in my suggested videos on youtube. God has been putting things in my path right now that I have been struggling to deal with. Dave is just the last in a line.
First I was struggling with tithing while still in debt to my mother and my internet preacher answered a question on tithing. Then I was concerned that I lacked motivation, but in getting the spending back under control and in doing my five times a week Bible study. Then I was struggling with forgiveness for DH's sister and nieces over the stuff they pulled at Thanksgiving.
Forgiveness was in the next lesson and in such a way that it heals the person who forgives, not the one who holds on to the anger. Doesn't mean I'm willing to have holidays with them, but I might be able to at least see them now. So I asked for help about the budget and in walks Dave Ramsey, so to speak.
So I just finished reading the book last night. It took me 3 days. And I figured out how come I felt that way about credit cards. It's because we just buy what we need with no thought to it. And because I know we will pay it off each month in full, I haven't really been sticking to a budget when it comes to groceries and household expenses or clothing or eating out.
And with these bad habits getting out of hand, things felt tight every month and I didn't feel like I could possibly make payments on the loan to Mom, the only debt we have left. So I sat down and made up a better budget and if we actually stick to it, then yes, I can start paying Mom at least $500 a month.
DH's mother just gave us $1000. We had thought to put it in the Emergency Fund, but I think instead, we will use it to get current. The next two paydays will pay off what we have left on the credit cards before they are due and then we will go down to simply charging the auto pays, which total $407.50. It might be a little lower, but I am allowing $50 for Ting. We don't always go that high, some months we are lower, but we have never been above it, so that is what I put in the budget. But we won't use the credit card for anything else. Nothing but the auto pays. And we will use paypal from our bank account for online purchases, but not until we've had a moratorium on online purchases for six months or so.
I have also budgeted $1000 for groceries/household. I do think I can keep it lower than that, but I haven't been. Since I track my spending, more or less, I know I haven't. We are switching to cash for that. I will start with putting $250 in the groceries envelope. I figure $200 for groceries and $50 for household. Maybe I should break it down into two envelopes, except I usually buy household stuff when I go grocery shopping. We'll see. I know I need to get toilet paper, deodorant, and quart size Ziplocs, which will take up a good share of that $50.
I have transferred all the auto pays to one card, and as soon as the last little bit on the AMEX is paid off, I am going to cut it up and cancel it. I was just using it for Netflix and Hulu. I am also going to cancel my Best Buy card and no longer do any 18 or 12 month same as cash deals. I paid off the last one with part of our tax return. Instead I will be saving up money in a computer fund, though that won't start for a while.
I am not sure I am ready to cut the cord completely with credit cards, but I can't see having more than 3. One is the miles card, which DH will need if he starts working in Alaska again and has to fly all the time. He usually got 2 free flights a year, sometimes 3, so it definitely was worth it. Then there is the one my daughter is a signer on. Then there is the Costco Citi card, but I am not sure if that is going to be worth keeping yet. Without charging all of our groceries and gas, the amount of cash back will dramatically drop, and that was the only reason I got it in the first place.
My head knows that the best thing for us to do is to get rid of all but one card, but I am scared to do it. Mostly because the EF is not where I want it to be. I know you aren't supposed to use credit cards as a back up EF, but you know what 2016 and 2017 were like for us. If we had run out of money at least we would have had those cards to fall back on, which of course, is exactly that attitude I'm not supposed to have.
I knew Dave would let me have it over these ideas and I wasn't wrong. It sure has shown me what I need to work on and try to not rely so much on my security gland ruling what I do.
So next, I go back to an envelope, pay with cash system, except for those auto pays. I am looking into whether or not there are ways to pay them without paying by card. I think you can pay both Netflix and Hulu through paypal, but I'm not 100% sure. I think we can put storage on direct withdrawal, but I don't know about Ting. I haven't been able to find anything about Ting. But one of the reasons I really like doing auto pays on the credit card is so that I only have one due date to worry about, not an additional five. Right now I only have two to worry about and they come out on the same day.
So I will fund this coming payday's grocery/household envelope with $250.00 from the gift money, so all the money in the paycheck can go for the tithe and the Citi card.
I have already handed DH an envelope marked vending for the vending machines at work with $7 in ones that I had in my purse. He is to get $25 a month to use in the vending machines at work (he's been charging them). This gives him a little over $1 a day and the charge is 85 cents, so anything left at the end he can spend or set aside and save it for something he wants. Or he can save it all and quit using the vending machine altogether.
I will also have my own $25 envelope for something I want to do. I have no idea what I want to do with it, but sometimes just saving makes me happy.
I really would like to be able to squeeze out more than $500 a month to pay Mom. It might be $100, it might be $25, who knows? But whatever I can throw at it. She won't like getting weird amounts, but I don't care. It is not up to her how much I pay back at a time. It is up to DH and me.
As soon as we know what is going on in June with the job, I can decide what to do with the Emergency Fund. If I want to bump it down to $1000 and pay Mom with the rest or if we need to keep it there in case of possible job loss. It is scary to keep it at just $1000, but Dave says it keeps you more driven to pay off the debt so you can build the EF up to 3 to 6 months of expenses.
I get it. I get everything Dave says. I think I'm in the stage where I am not yet drinking the Kool-Aid, but I have read the ingredients and directions on the package and started preparing the beverage. He has his baby steps and I have mine. I do want to get there. And I want to get there fast, so time to put our heads down and start pushing that stone uphill.
I just discovered I didn't actually make a payment on the 30th. I recorded it in my check register, but I must have gotten distracted before I actually went online and paid it. Fortunately I had made a payment the week before, so there was no late fee, but that does mean we got charged interest for the $1400 balance. Ugh. I hate when that happens. I hate giving a single cent to the Evil Empire.
Okay, we were a bit distracted having to deal with DD's gall bladder attack, but still. I am usually so on the ball with paying the bills. Lesson learned, though. Don't enter it into the register until I've actually made the payment. I wish I'd realized this two days ago.
I was wondering why the balance was so high on that account. I couldn't find the payment there, so I checked my checking account online and couldn't find the payment there, either. I can't believe I did that. I know I haven't been feeling good and have been kind of spacey all week, but still. This is the second time I have done that in 4 months. *sighs*
I did finally catch all my budgets up to date on the spreadsheets. I finished up September, October, November and December, including entering all the medical bills into each month. I haven't added up the numbers yet, but I know as of August we'd already spent over $20K on medical bills for 2017. I'd say it is going to be around $27K from a guesstimate.
Can I just say again, the Affordable Care Act was badly misnamed? Burdonsomely Unaffordable Care Act would be a much better title. Or Bankrupting the Middle Class Care Act. That would be an acceptable title as well. I know it has helped the people that get it for free, but it has hurt just as many people, if not more so by driving up the cost of everything insurance related, making it more expensive for employers to offer plans, and shifting the expense directly to those who don't get any subsidies. And I'm not sure it is going to get any better any time soon, either. They like to talk about health care, but they don't like to do much, no matter what side they are on.