Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bare Bones October

We've decided to challenge ourselves and our budget for the month of October.  In an attempt to accurately determine how much we can actually do without, we are going bare bones this month.  We have drastically reduced the spending amounts for each flexible category in our budget, and completely eliminated a few for this month.  If we are able to maintain this budget, we will be on track to pay off the remainder of one student loan this month and sock away about $1200 into savings.

This will be a good test for us to see if we really, truly are ready for the lifestyle changes and sacrifices that will come with moving to one income.  If things go well, we're hoping to be on one income within 6-10 months.  In the meantime, we plan to stay on the pared down budget and put away some serious money into savings to cover the C-section birth of our next child.....hopefully, within the next 2 years.  We have insurance, but no maternity coverage.  From what I can tell, a C-section in this area costs about $15,000 on a cash pay plan.

I'll keep you updated during the month to let you know how we're doing.  I'd love to hear if anyone else has a budget goal they're working on this month!

Debt - Part 2 - Change Your Mind

Financial Friday

The first thing that we had to do, when we decided to start our debt repayment plan, was to change our minds about how we viewed debt. We knew we didn't like having the bills and monthly payments, but we really began to look at it as a burden and weight that was holding us back from some of our life goals.

We were newlyweds, and one of our main goals was to create a solid marriage relationship. This is still our goal. We strongly felt that being in so much debt could potentially strain our relationship in the future. We had a discussion a few days ago, and we both realized that neither of us can recall an argument about our finances. This isn't to say that we don't disagree from time to time about how our budget will be allocated, but it just isn't a heated issue.

Our second major life goal was to have children. There was no way we could afford kids with such a huge amount of our income going toward debt and interest each month . We just didn't have the extra money to pay for the doctor, hospital, furniture, clothes, diapers, etc. We both wanted to be very involved in raising our children by having a parent home most of the time. This goal seemed so far away for us, but it was also so important to us that we knew we would do what it took to make it a reality.

With our changed mindset and defined goals, we knew where we wanted to go. The question was, how to get there?

The #1 most important thing that we did was NOT CREATE ANY MORE DEBT. None whatsoever. For any reason.

We took the credit cards out of our wallet. We decided that we were not going to buy anything that we wanted to finance. No new cars, no new furniture, no expensive vacations. The amount of integrity that this simple principal adds to your life is utterly indescribable. For the first time in many years for both of us, we were completely paying our own way. We weren't relying on debt to make up the difference at the end of the month, or to pick up the tab when we felt we "needed" or "deserved" something that we didn't have the cash to pay for.

Rather than desiring possessions and luxuries, we began to desire freedom. Freedom from the limits imposed by our debt. Freedom to live a life of our own design. Our thinking changed. Our lifestyle changed. These weren't sacrifices, they were choices. Looking back, I think it's one of the best choices we have made for our relationship.

When I was in college, I never stopped to think all those times I was using my credit card to pay for new clothes, concert tickets, or pricey dinners out with friends, that it would impact my life for years. I didn't stop to think that it would impact my future husband's life. I essentially traded those temporary and trivial things for years of worry, stress and hard work. If we hadn't taken such an aggressive approach toward our debt, I might even be telling you that I had traded those things for my marriage or for time with my son.

If you have debt, I encourage you to take a look at your own life goals and how you view your debt.

More in the debt series next week. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It's the dreaded "D" word.


Why does no one tell college students about the dangers of debt? At least no one told me or my husband when we were in college, and I was even working on a business degree. I guess we just thought that the debt was inevitable or the only way to get by in college, and we would end up with wonderfully high paying jobs when we graduated and it would be no big deal to pay it back. I really don't remember what I was thinking. Then reality hit. All I know is, I woke up one morning with a degree in one hand and a pile of credit card bills and student loans in the other hand.

Very soon after we were married, I became passionate about reducing our debt. I had two main motivations. First, I had heard from numerous sources that financial issues were the main cause for divorce. Second, I reall
y wanted to have children and be able to stay at home with them.

So this started our journey toward debt payoff. I read books, attended workshops and seminars, made a budget and a debt repayment plan. We invested a lot of hard work and determination toward our goal. Within two and a half years, we had paid off a total of $38,ooo in debt consisting of credit cards and a vehicle loan. We had also stashed 6 months living expenses in our savings account.

Now, our work and family situations have changed, but we're still chipping away at those student loans, and next the mortgage. We use a budget, and pay off our credit card each month.

I'm telling you this, not to boast, but to encourage. It can be done, and we are proof! You don't need a business degree, expensive programs or high paying jobs. We use several "tools" to help us in our debt repayment. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing these tools with you. In the meantime, I've posted links to some good reads to the left, under "Great Articles".

Monday, September 28, 2009

Homemade Teething Biscuits

My poor son has been teething for two solid weeks now. Each time he goes through a teething bout, it seems that we have to find something new to help. In the past we've used ice wrapped in a washcloth, a wet washcloth, teething rings, vibrating teethers, soft spoons, and a leather coin purse. This time around, the only thing that seems to help are those teething biscuits. I buy the natural, organic ones that are about $4 a box.

We ran out yesterday, so I decided to try making my own. I used a recipe from this book, and they turned out good, just not as pretty as the store bought ones. I love the idea of making my own, because I know exactly what's in them and I can make them into any shape I want (making sure to round any sharp edges). Not to mention that it's so much cheaper than $4 per box.

We're traveling this weekend, so I think I'll make up another batch to take on the road with us. The only question I have is how to store them. I don't think I want to store them in an airtight container, because they'll probably soften up. I'm guessing maybe wax paper or a brown paper bag? Please feel free to leave any suggestions in the comment area.

Visit We are THAT Family for other WFMW reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cheap Greeting Cards

Back when I had lots of time on my hands (pre-motherhood), I would make these beautiful handmade greeting cards. Okay, so that was one of the first things to go when I became a mommy. I just don't have time in my life right now for that, but I do still want to send cards to people. Have you bought a card at the store lately? Seriously, I think $3 or more each is ridiculous!! So I have come up with two tightwad solutions:

Solution #1:
Send an e-card. I've been doing this on a limited basis for years, but now I try to send one to almost anyone that regularly checks their e-mail and won't be offended by not receiving a card in the mail. There are a lot of great sites out there for sending free e-cards. One of my favorites is Dayspring.

Solution #2:
I know for some occasions or people, it's just not appropriate to send an e-card. When I'm shopping the local thrift stores, I always browse their card selection. Since they don't take up much room, a lot of the stores just throw them all into one box or basket and most shoppers just overlook them. I have found so many great cards in like-new condition for pennies. I prefer to stick to buying blank cards with nice pictures on the front, making sure that I get a selection for men, women, and children. This way, I can have them on hand to use for all different occasions. I have found that most people really appreciate a nice blank card that I've written something thoughtful in, rather than the typical store-bought card with a name signed to the bottom. No more last minute stops at the store for a $3 card on the way to a birthday party!

I usually pay $1 for 10-15 blank cards or small thank you cards. I have found one store that sells the typical store-type greeting cards for 50 cents......still a great deal. I will buy one of these, if I find one that is appropriate for a specific person/occasion and make sure that I also write something thoughtful along with the pre-printed sentiments.

Visit beingfrugal for more Tightwad Tuesday ideas.