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Collecting

April 29, 2008

My husband is a collector.  He loves having full sets of things.  There was a time when it was everything Star Wars.  I remember about 10 years ago, before we were even dating, he had an entire room devoted to Star Wars toys.  A few years ago he sold them all.  We had lost touch at the time, but he tells me he got about $6k for the complete collection.  I suspect this was far less than he paid for everything, but still, I’m sure it was nice to get a big payment like that.  We currently have 6 boxes of comic books stored in our closet.  He collected them over his childhood, and I believe some of them are worth a decent amount.  I’ve looked into selling them on ebay, but to be honest, it’s kind of a daunting task. 

His current collecting habit is DVD’s.  He is a big movie buff, and loves to watch movies (over and over).  He drinks in all the special features, and watches the movies with commentary more often than without.  I have to say I like this collecting habit more than the comic books, because I am able to enjoy the movies, too.  However, we currently own around 900 DVD’s.  (This includes box sets of TV shows.)  Last month we spent over $70 on DVD’s and this was for far fewer than he wanted.   In March we spent closer to $150.

Today, we were talking, and I mentioned how proud I was that we have scaled back on the DVD purchases.  His response was, “I don’t really like that” (very serious tone).  I was surprised at his response.  And then I felt kind of guilty.  Have I become some tyrant that guards her money and doles it out for what she thinks is necessary? 

Really, every month when I write the budget, he goes through the upcoming DVD releases and tells me what he wants so I can include it in the budget.  Sometimes I’ll ask if he can wait to get something previously viewed from Blockbuster, but for the most part I account for all the DVD’s he wants.  I think the problem is the “sale” DVD’s.  The ones that have been out for a long time but now Best Buy has in their ad for $4.99.  Another problem is that he feels like “I’m an adult, I work hard, if I want a DVD, I can just go buy one.” 

I get that this is his hobby, his thing.  I am convinced he has to collect something, it’s a part of who he is. And I know there are far more expensive hobbies he could have.  At least he’s not a gambler, right?  I don’t want to get so focused on getting out of debt that he is having to give up things he feels passionate about, but I do want to get out of debt as fast as possible.   Do you have any collections, and how do you keep it within your budget? 

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Budgets

April 28, 2008

I find it strange that most personal finance blogs have tips on how to make a budget, but you rarely see tips on how to STICK to a budget.  Finding the discipline to stick to a budget is really the hard part.  It’s the part I’ve always needed advice on.  When you hit the end of the month and you have to get to work and you have nothing left in your gas budget, just what exactly should you do?   

May is the third month I have made a real, detailed budget.  When I was younger, in college, I was told by my parents, “You need to make a budget.”  They went so far as to tell me to make a list of all my expenses and then subtract it from how much you make.  I am pretty decent at math, so it was no problem at all to write down gas$$, rent$$, food$$, insurance$$…  What I wasn’t told was how to STICK to a budget.

Everytime I would talk to my mom and complain how I never had any money, she would tell me to make a budget.  I would, but really these were just arbitrary numbers on a piece of paper.  They accurately reflected my fixed expenses, but had no real bearing on how much I would spend on gas, food, extras…  I just spent what was left in my account, and then I stopped.  Okay, I didn’t always stop spending then (I payed a lot of overdraft fees back then).  Then, I finally discovered Dave Ramsey and the envelope system

In March, I made a budget, and well, was pretty off in a few categories (mainly food), and kind of gave up on it by the end of the month.  In April, I made a budget, and for the first time actually tracked every expense through the entire month.  Again, we went over in a few categories (food again), but our income was more than I had estimated, so we still came out ahead.  This month, I thought I would make a small change to the way we spend in our worst category.  I have decided to use the envelope system for our groceries/food. 

I write our budget according to our payday cycles.  By that I mean, I started our financial month last Friday because that is the paycheck our first of the month bills come out of.  So, last Friday I went to the ATM and got out half of our monthly food budget in cash.  It is now sitting in an envelope in our bedroom.  (Which I’m not so carzy about cause our neighbors are kind of shady.)  We used a little this weekend for a bottle of wine and some ingredients to make chili.  I believe this will improve our food spending.  Now I need to work on improving my menu planning skills.  We may go over in other categories (rising gas prices and we have to get to work), but I feel we are on the right track.  I’m proud either way that for the first time in my life I am figuring out how to STICK to a budget.  I know in the future I will find ways to be sure I stick with it 100%.

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Funnies

April 26, 2008

I am at work today, and could get a call at any time, so I cannot spend much time on the computer, but I saw Blondie and Dagwood today and thought I would share.

Even Dagwood is feeling the pinch!!

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Stupid Tax

April 25, 2008

I, like many others, am a big fan of Dave Ramsey.  I check his site regularly to read Dave says and stupid tax.  Today, as I was checking our bank statement, I found a stupid tax that we have been paying for 9 months!!  My husband had a gym membership that expired last July.  Today I discovered that they have been taking $31.18 out of our account every month even after it expired.  We don’t even live in that area anymore!!  Well, I called Bank of America and told them that we did not allow these payments, and they said they can’t even stop this (pending) payment.  I have to call back tomorrow AFTER it goes through to stop further payments, and I can dispute any that are within 60 days.  My husband called the gym to complain, and they said that without any proof in writing, they won’t refund any of the money.  Not to mention, he has to drive approximately 40 miles to the gym to cancel things in person.  That is a total of  $280.62 in stupid tax plus about $8 for the gas to get there and back.    I have hopes that we can get $60 back by disputing the charges through BoA, but it is still a bit of a mental setback.

I am trying to look on the positive side.  We are trying really hard to get a handle on budgeting, and if I wasn’t so meticulous about checking our statements on line, this could have gone on for a lot longer.  It is also a good lesson learned about reading fine print, and getting everything in writing.   This is also a great lesson for my husband, because he hates having to handle this sort of thing, and since it was his membership, he has to be the one who goes to the gym and deals with the people there.

I’m sure I have paid many other stupid taxes in my life, and will in the future, but I have to think that we learn better through mistakes, and I know this lesson will stick with me.

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Current Numbers

April 24, 2008

We currently owe something around $55k.  I categorize this into plastic debt (3 credit cards), vehicle debt (2 financed vehicles), family debt (to Dad, $5k), student loans (around $9k), and old debts (around $5k in collections).  We also owe $567 on a Bowflex that we got a few months ago, but we will pay that off in full in May.  I will get totally overwhelmed if I worry about all of that at once, so first I am focusing on the plastic debt.  Specifically,    

                                  Chase Visa            $4,386      0%

                                  BoA Visa               $4,396      14.24%

                                  AAA Visa              $8,394      14.24%

Total Plastic Debt: $17,176

My goal is to have all plastic debt gone by June 2009.  I know it may seem wrong, but we are starting with the Chase Visa.  It has a 0% introductory rate until January of next year, but we have heard many horror stories about “back interest” charging from the beginning of the introductory period.  My goal is to pay off the Chase Visa by September 2008.

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My Story

April 24, 2008

I don’t remember the first time I took on debt.  Probably sometime as a small child saying “Mommy, please buy this for me and I’ll…”  I know through high school, my friends and I would loan each other money all the time, “I’ll get dinner the next time…”  When I went off to college, I signed up for a credit card.  I was even told by my parents that this was a good idea.  “What if someone dies and you need to get a plane ticket?”  Of course with minimal income I never paid more than the minimum payment, and eventually it got maxed out and went over the limit.  There was no way that I could pay the now $200 payment, so what did I do?  I got a new cell phone number of course.  The best way to avoid debt collectors.  I knew this was a bad plan at the time, but I didn’t really know how to fix things, so I just ignored it.  Fast forward a few years (and a few new phone numbers), and I had about $5000 in collections.  Fortunately, I don’t get calls from debt collectors all the time, but my credit is in the toilet, and I pay 17% interest on my car loan. 

Nine months ago, I married a wonderful man.  I knew him nine years ago, we were great friends, but we lost touch.  One year and nine months ago, he found me again (on myspace of all places), and well, one thing led to another and *fireworks*.  He has been a bit more responsible than me with his finances.  He always pays his bills on time, but he does have three credit cards with balances totalling over $17k.  I know, it’s ridiculous.  Add that to my $5k in collections, 2 vehicle financed, another $5k I owe my father, and it’s a pretty staggering amount.  I am lucky that we see eye to eye on getting out of debt.  We both want it very much.  I am a bit more obsessive about it, reading, and now writing, personal finance blogs. 

I decided that I should have a blog of my own.  I find great encouragement reading about the trials and successes of others with their finances, and I wish to join in the fun.  I also look forward to the accountability.  I may think twice about splurging if I know I will later have to explain it in my blog. 

Also, this is my first blog ever, so any tips on how to manage it and make a better, easier to read site are very welcome.

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