Monday, November 30, 2009

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace .....A Year Later

It's been a year now that we have been using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace budgeting.

An amazing year.

I cannot say enough good things about his system.

I cannot give you a dollar amount on how much of our debt we have paid off in this time. But I can tell you that we went from about six credit cards down to 2. That's not how many we had, that's how many we were paying on. I think we cut up about 10 cards out of our wallets. And we still have a ways to go on paying off those last two cards, but we are making progress.

For a quick rundown on the principles:
1. $1000 in an emergency fund. FIRST!!! Without this you are going to fail. The washer and/or dryer will break down. Car repairs will pop up. Unexpected doctor or dental bills. You name it. So the first step is to have this money in an emergency fund.

We already had this. We've always had this. But I would never allow us to touch it. So it was like not having it. It was my safety net and you had better not touch it. Rather stupid in the end because we would then use a credit card for whatever emergency would pop up because I could not use that money. (I'm over it now.)

2. Pay off all credit card and other debt. Start with your smallest balance. This sounds backwards to many advisers, but there is a crazy logic in it. You start making progress quicker which keeps you motivated because you can SEE the bills being paid off. I had 4 bills paid off within 2 months by concentrating heaviest on the small bills. It rocked.

3. Invest after the bills are paid off.

You also work on a 0 balance written budget and use a cash envelope system. When the money is gone, you are done. End. Of. Story.

Making a budget is difficult at first. You have to give yourself a good three months to really even know everything that needs to be on it. And then you need another three to really dial it in and have it working.

One year into our zero dollar budget it runs smooth as silk. I do still have little things that pop up that I realize I missed. An example would be hubs satellite radio. I kept forgetting to budget for the service as it is only 2x a year and billed directly to a card. I just recently caught this and started budgeting for it.

I think the thing that is the hardest for people new to this system is the cash aspect of the budget. There are certain things you are supposed to start doing only in cash. Why? Because it is proven over and over that you spend less when you pay cash. I can testify that this is true. But getting started in a cash system is inconvenient. Its much easier to swipe a card at the grocery story or pump than to stay within your limit with the cash in your pocket. You have to pay much more attention to what you are doing. And GO IN at the gas station??? GASP??? How could I possibly do that? I have kids in the car!

Whatever. I've already said it all and proved its all crap. Give it a try for three months and see if you arent rolling your eyes at yourself. And there are prepaid gas cards that you can have. You put your allowance on it and then use it at the pump. But when the money is gone...its gone. This is why it takes a while to dial in the budget...because chances are you don't really know how much you are spending REALLY on gas or groceries or whatever. So you have to know that you are bound to fail the first few months, and accept that it is okay...its a transition period while you get it all together.

I do have to admit that we have tailored the system to our own lifestyle. We do not follow it 100%.

First, we do use our cards for our online purchases. But we already have the cash to pay it off immediately. I opened our new account here at the same bank the big card was from so I can just go over there and make cash payments (its our emergency account bank, not regular checking/savings bank) and pay it all off when the bill comes in. I love it.

On that note, I do highly recommend you have two banks. Some people think I'm nuts.

Have you ever seen what happens when your identity is stolen and they hit your bank account? The bank freezes everything. So if you have an automatic deposit on your paycheck, and your accounts are frozen...guess what? You aren't paying the bills. Or buying groceries. And it stays that way until the bank is done with their "investigation". It is not quick.

So we use our credit union as our major bank with checking and savings, the girls savings and my extra account for our some-day China trip. The emergency account is kept in a bank across the street. If we ever do have one of the banks get hit, we can operate out of the other bank while everything is under investigation and being worked on.

The other big difference we have (and that our instructors tried extra hard to get us to change our minds on) is investing. We had been investing for almost 10 years before we got into debt. We have our advisers and our funds and insurances etc all set up on automatic payment straight from the government. Its money we never see and pretty much never think about.

Dave Ramsey would have us stop all those investments and pay that money on the debt to get out of debt faster and then reinvest. But then we would have to pay all over again on our front load funds. That would be a huge waste of money. And the paperwork involved is a pain.

So yes, we are paying interest on debt that we could get out from under quicker if we would stop the investments. We are still not willing to do that. The investing is invisible in our lives and we choose to leave it that way. We got ourselves into the debt mess and the penalty we are paying is the interest. We asked for it. We are taking it in the pants like big boys and girls and moving on. (Do not get me started on all the commercials asking where the publics bail out is!!!! We were not duped into debt...we signed up for it. Be an adult and pay the bills.)

A big shout out of Thanks to Dave. Because of him, this is a good Christmas.

We have recovered from our $7300 loss on our home. We did not have to borrow anything to handle this and have put all the money we did use back where it came from.

We recently had a large,unexpected car repair bill. Due to our budget, I was funding a "car repair" virtual envelope that covered the whole bill. No credit card or emergency account needed.

Our Christmas envelope has been funded all year. This means I've been able to shop all year and have the money for Christmas in cash.

We paid off 4 cards and one vehicle.

We made a big move and didn't have to use credit or emergency funds for any of it. (Government handled the hotels and movers.)

My hubs needed a mess dress at the last minute and I as able to come up with the $400 it cost with very little shuffling. It did not hurt. A year ago it would have killed us.

To anyone out there that needs to get out of debt, or just needs to fine tune their budgeting skills, I highly recommend Dave Ramseys Financial Peace University. It can truly change your life. It's really not hard, even though there is a learning curve and a time frame that you have to get through while you dial it in. You CAN rule your money and tell it where to go...instead of letting it rule you.

And what could be better than that?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I REALLY Don't Like....Part II

Of course we all got up late. REALLY late. Like get up with only 30 minutes to get out the door late. Not a great way to start the day. And I was all about just not going to church. I mean really.

But MM comes up to me (the only person awake in the house, snacking on crackers from last nights tree trimming tradition) and lets me know that she has laid her church clothes out already.

That felt like a nudge. So I wake up the teen. Not going to church? And I left the hubs also and decided MM and I could go because now there is 16 minutes to get ready.

Hubs begins to gripe. I told him I didn't expect him to go.

So we all four made it out the door just a little bit late. (LOL)

Since MM went to kids church last week I thought this was going to be easy.

Not so.

She dug in her heels and grabbed me in a death grip when I tried to leave.

Want mom to stay for a bit?


Want to come with mom to big church?


If we leave you DO NOT get to come back. You have to stay in church with me and be quiet.

Understood and agreed.


Worship finishes. Now she wants to go to kid church.


Lots of noise - dad kicks us out of the sanctuary. Under strict orders not to take her to kids church as this was agreed.

So I spend 40 minutes outside the sanctuary with a SCREAMING child having a fit. She ripped up her papers. She threw them everywhere. She wanted to go to kids church. She wanted to go home. Tears and screaming. Screaming and tears.

I threatened to take her to the car and make her sit out there. Nope, she doesn't want that.

She wanted to go to the car. I didn't have the keys so NO.

We stood outside in the cold because she was being too loud and ugly.

She settles a little when she freezes so we go back to the benches outside the sanctuary.

She yells how she never wants to come back here. She doesn't want her family to go to church. She's never going to go to church ever again. She doesn't like this church.

We go over and over how I gave her a choice. We go over how we are not leaving cause dad and sissy are enjoying their church...and mom is very unhappy that MM is so mean as to not let me enjoy church also. We go over and over that the family will go to church even if she doesn't want to.

I tell her that her behavior is very bad.


Do bad people get presents from Santa?

No. They do not. But more importantly, good people that behave badly don't get presents either.

Fit shut off.

Return to sanctuary (as we are released, hah!).

Informed that they heard her screaming every time some entered or exited the sanctuary.

Have a raging headache.

Sound like spiritual warfare?

Friday, November 27, 2009

I REALLY Don't Like Looking For a Church

I think looking for a church is probably the most stressful and hard thing we deal with each time we move.

The move to Texas I actually drug my feet for a whole year before finding a church home. It was awful.

There is a history here that I won't really go into...but lets just say that we looked over and over for a year before we left Nebraska. We had given up. Prior to that we stayed in a church we didn't really belong in for 5 years because we hate looking. Also because we sat under a whole lot of preaching on not quitting. We didn't want to be quitters.

So here we are again looking for a church home. At least this time it only took 3 months to get busy. I must admit that is because our girls hound us over it weekly. I just have the hardest time forcing myself to go through this.

And we have looked around the area for certain things and were having no luck. We had one prospect but neither of us were thrilled about it.

So last week I was throwing dinner into the crockpot and thinking we had better go to church this coming Sunday. Songbird had asked about it - both me and dad at different times. She said she really needed to connect with some Christian teens. She needs the support and the accountability.

So I'm at the sink and I switch on the radio. And not 10 minutes later there is an interview with a youth pastor and his assistant pastor from a local church. They were interviewed about their youth program.

Exactly what we are looking for. Sounding very much like the church we left in Texas. Big on training up their youth to serve and be involved. A passion for reaching the kids in their community and throwing out the pre-conceived notions on what a church kid is supposed to look and act like. Big on meeting the youth of the city where they are at and serving them. Notice the theme? SERVE.

So the girls and I checked out Sunday morning. The teens don't have services on Sunday mornings...they serve in the church instead. Then they take over the whole church on Sunday nights for their things.

I normally keep the girls with me the first couple of visits to make sure the preaching lines up with what we believe. We've visited churches that were so NOT in line that I felt sick to my stomach for not knowing what my kids were being exposed we don't do that if we can help it.

Unfortunately the worship was too loud for Mighty Mouse. I had to take her out. So I took her to kids church. Very nice set up...and huge. I did have to stop them placing her in the first group they picked as it was all white. I pointed to the group with another Asian, Blacks, Middle Eastern and Hispanic children. I apologized for picking the largest group but it was best from my daughter so they complied. They were in a large group at first...which was too noisy so MM wouldn't let me leave her until they broke down into small groups in smaller rooms.

After services Songbird said she liked it enough to try out youth that night. No problem. I left MM home with dad and took her back out. It is not close to our house so I packed up a book and computer and figured I'd hang out until she was done. This also gave me the opportunity to slip in and listen to the preaching. I had to be all stealthy because you know I'm not allowed to sit with Songbird.

I met the pastors and talked a minute. They asked me to stick around after the service to take a tour of the new building -- a building that is for the youth. It was amazing...and they hope to do a groundbreaking with a Toby Mac concert.

And as we were leaving we had people come up and introduce themselves in the parking lot even.

Boy people.

Checking out my little girl people.

That's a new one.

That I'm not ready for.

Because I hate being the parent that doesn't allow their kid to date at 14....when all the other church kids are doing it.

And you know, the Christian parents that allow their kids to date are much nastier than non-Christian parents when they find out you don't let your kid date.

Why is that?

Sorry people.

1 in 4 girls is sexually molested by the time they are 18.

1 in 4.

Why would I put my daughter in situations where that is easily accomplished at 14?

I'm not sure I'll even do it at 16.

And we've had this discussion. We've discussed the heart scars left by broken relationships. We discussed the purpose of dating in the first place. We've discussed how easy it is to get carried away. Think you are going to control a situation with raging hormones is crazy. Just ask all those girls that ended up pregnant...when they did INTEND to have sex even.

Currently she tells me she plans to wait until college to actually date.

I hope that remains true. She will have to be very very strong to actually pull it off when all the other teens are dating.

I don't think we got it right with our first kid, so I'm hoping it goes a little better with this one.


Like it isn't hard enough to visit churches without this issue!

Little girls should not be allowed to grow up.

Especially not in the middle of looking for a church.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chapped Lips Anyone?

Today is the last day for a giveaway over at Great Cakes Soapworks. Amy is giving away 5 different lip balms that she makes. Click on over and tell her what you currently use and which one of her flavors you would like to try. As of this post she only has 14 entries and 5 to give away...that's great odds!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Do I Have a Sign On My Back???

Last week I was reading one of my all time fav blogs... Suburb Sanity. Debbie is hysterical and I usually start the day off reading her posts. And you can usually tell if I have by the tea stains on my shirt from the said liquid being shot out my nose after reading her latest post. Yes, Debbie and I could be fast friends.
Debbie has a thing about shopping with seniors. Her post Forget What I Said About Getting Older is just another example as to why. And of course the post caused me to snort my tea instead of drink it...because we are within a couple of years of each other. This could have happened to me. Yet, during this post I kept laughing and thinking how she had nothin' on me.
Oh, the stories I could tell....

Which resulted in a new blog post. Today you get to hear one of those strange facts in the life of being Autumn. Not flattering or cool....but sort of funny. Sort of not.

Being a redhead brings a certain amount of attention. Add being small, way too white for the living and shy to the mix and you generate all kinds of adult attention. Why is that? Why do adults insist on talking to or engaging children that OBVIOUSLY want to be left alone?

So all my life I have attracted the grannies when I was younger....and the gramps when I hit about the teen years.

I've had gramps follow me around Wally World and stop me to tell me not ever cut my hair.
I've had a million and one gramps stop me to tell me how their mother's hair was that color... and now they have 4 grandchildren with red hair also.
I've had many an old man tell me if they were just 10 years younger.... (they'd still go to jail! Hah!)
In the military commissary, I cannot make it through the store without being stopped by a veteran on one pretense or another. And I'm a sucker for a veteran. And they can talk. For a long, long time. You'd be surprised the information stored in my brain from those talks. And hey, they always like to tell me where I can get even BETTER deals than at the commissary. That has come in handy a time or two. I LOVE veterans.
Do you know, as a teen and young adult how uncool it is to be the one in the group always getting hit on by seniors?? They would even try to give me money. (Like a dollar is really impressive to a teen.) Go buy yourself some candy little girl.

You can't imagine the hazing I've taken over this.

In my mid to late twenties we lived in Florida. And during this time I was going to school to be a certified chiropractic assistant. It was a blast. One other friend and I loaded up on certain weekends of the month and spent them at a college not far from Fort Walton Beach/Destin.

Of course when school was not in...we were in Destin. And my friend, well, lets just say she is truly one of those girls that guys take one look at and want to marry and have their babies. She is gorgeous. She attracted attention everywhere we went. And our favorite night spot was the Hogsbreath, which had a great band. So, after dinner, that is where you would find us. Not bar hopping...just right there.

I cannot even tell you how many free drinks I was given just to get her name out of me. Or just because we were together. Sometimes it was rather annoying. Guys wanted me to introduce them. It was relentless. One time I even had to be real ugly. It was a rugby team. A rugby TEAM all trying to pick up my friend. TEAM. I had to be scary Autumn to get rid of them. (Of course it worked...I'm very good at it.)
And me? Well, the morning after...when we would go to breakfast? Yes. All the old guys are out eating breakfast.

And they all wanted to buy mine for me.

So one morning, I looked over at my friend and asked...."What??? Do I have a sign on my back that says "Medicare Provider???""

Oh yes I did. And it stuck.

But on the bright side....

I've never been offered a ride on some hot gramps scooter.
(Although I've had plenty of offers to go for a ride on their motorcycles.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Joining my friend Tricia with a Thankful Thursday...

A very uneventful week. I think I've slept more than anything. And I've dubbed my home "The House O' Plague". It sounds like we all have one foot in the grave.

On that note...

I am thankful that my cough has changed, is not so deep, and I think I might actually finally be on the mend. Thankful! Thankful! Thankful!

I am thankful that MM is back at school and doing well. She bounced back quicker than any of us. She's also the only one that had antibiotics so maybe that's it.

I am thankful for the awful tantrums and fits MM is throwing. Okay, so they are 2 years overdue...but at least they are here now. It is uncomfortable having a child that is too good and not comfortable enough to show their cute little bum. I'm dealing with full blown three-year-old tantrums (in public also) which is wonderful. Stages that aren't reached can hold a kid back. This means she is progressing. (It also means she is spoiled rotten.)

I am thankful not to be forgotten. I get to make a trip back to see friends for a lake weekend in January. Not only did they remember me, they were willing to help out if they could. I am also thankful that it is not necessary to have help in order to attend!

I am thankful for the escrow check. Turns out that we only lost $4300 on the house. And the money we got back replaced everything we had pulled out of various places. We are right back where we started from. Now, we lost all of the money we were paid for dislocation allowance...but thats fine! At least all our accounts have been paid back...including the China account!

And I am thankful to be almost done with all of my Christmas shopping!!! Black Friday has no appeal for me I don't need anything! Although going just to sit in a coffee shop and watch is really fun.

And lastly, I am thankful that I can be in a place with no friends and still be content and happy with my little family.

(Oh, and we are checking out a church this weekend that sounds really promising....add us to your prayers for wisdom and discernment!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Time For A Trip To Aruba

We haven't been on a trip lately, have we?

Well, its high time.

I'm so tired of being sick and hacking all over the place. My lungs are not being kind. And then there is the kid with pneumonia...who finished her second round of antibiotics...and two hours later started complaining of an ear ache. How does that happen???? And the other kid comes down sick also. And complains non-stop because "I can't get sick!". She did try - I have to give her that. She walked around the house in a mask for days in an attempt not to catch MM's sickness.

So right now, I'm all about laying out in sand in the sun. I don't need cool cultural things and colorful people. Just give me the beach and a fruity drink. Preferably something that will help me sleep through the coughing.
So its Aruba.

Not a lot to do on this island except enjoy a great beach vacation.
We are out in the Caribbean, enjoying life. We can go by cruise ship or plane. I'm in a hurry, so plane it is.

Now we just need to drop our bags and go sit out on the beach for awhile.
After we lose the sun and enjoy that awesome sunset, we can go in search of dinner.
In the morning we can go check out the town.
Maybe we will stop at a market stall or two and buy some of the local grown foods...
Or find a local art/craft we can take home to remember our trip by...
If we are really lucky we will have arrived during Carnival...
Later in the day we can go to the Butterfly Farm or the Donkey Farm...
Then its back to the beach. We can scuba or windsail.
Or, if you want to join me, we can go for a long walk and see all the cool boats and beaches.
And check out the locals at play. I'm sure we will see some of the local plants and animals...

Which will make us hurry back to town afterwards to enjoy natives of the warm blooded kind.
Maybe we will even see the Aloe man!
Aloe is one of the biggest products of the island. They have farms and all kinds of products that they sell all over the world.
On Sunday, we can worship at the local church ...
And by this time my lungs are all better and I am ready to head back up North. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Who wants to join me?