Category Archives: by the numbers

June by the Numbers

This was an interesting (and slightly unexpected) month.

To start with, while the numbers at the end of this post might seem to show otherwise – we have definitely hit the slow portion of the year.  The very first few days of the month, my husband had a slew of freelance jobs pay – resulting in, for all intents and purposes, no outstanding invoices. Meaning – no checks waiting to come in until work picks back up, and more invoices go out. And even when more invoices start going out – it can be a couple of months on average for checks to start coming in.

It was also an odd month in that the way I get paid, is every two weeks.  This means two months out of the year, I get three paychecks in the calendar month. This happens to be one of those months.

To top off the “this is not a normal month” list, we’ve had family in town for a week and a half helping us with a remodel of the garage. Normally, a project of this magnitude would wait until someone is out of Baby Step 2. However, in this case, the HOA is painting all garages this summer and they were going to “just fix” any with rotten wood and charge us.  We thought it would be better to fix it ourselves so that it was done right, and done without having a huge gaping question mark to our home maintenance budget.

Fortunately, we were able to cash flow this project with the unexpected checks that came in at the beginning of the month.  We estimated  high on what the renovation budget would need to be – and ultimately, it didn’t directly affect our normal monthly budget, but it did take way from what we could have paid off.

And so, the numbers:

Extra income: none

Cash flowed to Garage Reno: $2,000

Extra Debt paid: $4,185

Total Debt paid in June: $4,431*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $25,930*

One Major item to note – With this month’s extra debt paid – we are now over the 1/2 mark. Which is terrific since June is the 1/2 point in the year.  It’s so hopeful seeing focus and determination pay off. We might actually make our 2012 goal! We will have to wait and see how the next quarter goes – we’ll certainly get behind on the pace we need to finish – but there is always hope that the 4th quarter will be outstanding and catch us back up.

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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May by the Numbers

This month was pretty spectacular.  We are so thankful that we got one more amazing month before the actual slowdown hits.

We had very little ‘extra’ income this month.  No Craigslist sales.

This month’s budgeting was a little tight as the way refueling fell in the calendar – we both needed gas for our vehicles on the 29th, pushing us over that line item.  We had out-of-town company for a handful of days – but were pretty pleased that we were able to save on the other weeks so as to eat out with our company and not go over on the food budget.  We were under by an entire $7. 🙂

As far as progress – like I mentioned, the slowdown hasn’t hit yet so when some large jobs finished up (having already prepared for the next few slow months) we were able to make the FIRST EVER above minimum on our last remaining Major Debt – my grad school student loan.

Without further ado – the numbers:

Extra income:

We won a $100 Amex gift card

Extra Debt paid: $3,794

Total Debt paid in May: $4,040*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $21,499*

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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April by the Numbers

Last month I commented that we were not going to keep the same pace – as we are running out of things to sell (true – we sold nothing this month).

Then I mentioned that we were really pumped because on the self-employed front, a large job that we’ve been waiting for closed. But we also had taxes coming.

Then our washer broke and we got a new one.

SO – how did it all play out for the numbers? Really well, actually. I’m totally stoked to report this month. So first the numbers, and then a little commentary.

The Numbers

Extra income: $0

Extra items we had to squeeze into the family budget:

A Washer – $467 (three cheers for Scratch & Dent stores!)

An MRI – $612 (Yeah for FSA/Insurance? Thankfully, the entire amount was not out-of-pocket. Still – this is a hefty unexpected amount.)

Had we not had a large job finish – we would have had to reach back to the emergency fund for these two items. Instead, we were able to cash flow them right into this month’s budget.

Extra Debt paid: (drum roll….) $6,338 (boom! that’s right. HVAC – Buh-bye!)

Total Debt paid in April: $6,818*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $17, 459*

(If you’ve been following along at home, I had to update some of the old numbers. Did my math wrong in January, which threw everything else off)

Basically, April Rocked!

The Commentary
I must point credit where due. Yes, we work hard sticking to a budget, not spending, and forcing ourselves to send extra dollars to debt. BUT ultimately, it’s all due to the Grace of God. He is our provider. This is most obviously seen in the jobs that come in for my hubby (like the big one that allowed this month’s payoff). It’s seen a little more subtly in the fact that I even have a job (lest I forget that last year, I was unemployed for 9 months).

The overriding reason that we are even doing this debt goal in the first place is to be better stewards of our money. To be able to, eventually, give more away. Throughout this entire debt free process, we continue to tithe faithfully, as well as stay committed to a few individuals we’ve promised to support.

Believe you me, it’s always tempting to just skip tithing and throw it at debt. “I can pay you back God – when I am out of debt like you want me to be” (in the past as a single person, I’m embarrassed to admit I would occasionally fall into this false thinking).

Thankfully, this time around, we are doing this through the lens of truth, giving back to our Provider first and foremost, before the other dollars are dispersed in the budget, before the overflow going to debt.

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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March by the Numbers

3 months in.

Extra debt paid off in March – chipping away at the HVAC – $2,293

I’m not sure we will be able to maintain this pace for all of 2012!  Not in regards to keeping our budget tight (that is a requirement) but more in terms of we are running out of things to sell. 🙂

Our extra income this month was very nice.

Craigslist Sales: $580

Refund from our old home loan Escrow: $842

Totaling $1,422 extra dollars of income.

We stayed in budget (actually were under) in the food department.  I’m convinced this will be the most difficult category to stay in bounds on.  It takes a lot of planning, knowing when we have dinners out coming up and setting aside the amount we’ll need. It takes away a lot of spontaneity, but so far, we are managing.

This month we were able to go out to eat with some family that were in town yesterday, and tonight, I’m going to a birthday party.  Here the last day of the month, and food money is available. It’s hard work for sure, but it feels great.

One other note – while doing all of this, we are also setting aside money for things like Christmas gifts, and car repairs.  We stick them in the savings account.  This morning I noticed a whopping $1.06 in interest!  Not a lot, but wow – it sure feels great to have interest working in our favor for once!

So the final numbers for the month:

Total Debt paid in March: $2,779*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $10,641*

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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February by the Numbers

2 months in. February was not nearly as good as January.

This month we paid off $100 extra– our very smallest medical bill.

Significantly less than the extra pay off last month.

In addition to this pay off (and part of the reason this month is small), we finally closed on our Re-finance. In order to finalize the closing, we had to bring $2,300 to Closing.  (And there you have it – the extra “supposed to be used for debt” money.)  Not even sure if this is pro or anti Financial Peace instructions.  It was either use the money toward current debt while rolling the same amount into a new home loan or doing what we did, keep the loan a little smaller, but delay on paying down debt this month. :-/

Some other numbers for the month:

$70 in Extra Income from Gifts

$197 in Cash Back for our Costco Card — Full disclosure, we used this to stock up on non perishable products that we will use all year-long – so this one didn’t turn around and go toward debt.

Totaling $267 extra dollars of income.

Finally – I have to admit our set backs as well. We went over on our food bill.  Between the Superbowl and Valentines day – we cut it too close right at the end.  This month will be better.

Total Debt paid in Feb: $586*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $7,862*

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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January by the Numbers

Here we are one month into our goal to be Debt Free by the end of 2012… how did we do? Did we make any progress? I’m happy to report, yes we did!

This month we paid off $6,740 – which was the total of our 2 smaller student loans

We also made some extra money, which comes in outside of our budgeted income – so it is helpful in applying right to debt.

$150 on Craigslist sales

$7 from Pennies for Debra

$75 from a stack of silver coins we had floating around the house (finally rolled them and made them usable)

$94 in a Cash Back savings from our Energy Company

Totaling $322 extra dollars of income.

In addition to all of that – we also (of course) paid our minimums on everything else – further chipping away at principle of what we owe.

Finally – I’m happy to report an additional, unexpected bonus to living on a budget.

The biggest change is that we are using the envelope system for food. I specifically budgeted $100 less then what we had been averaging on food because I figured if we paid attention to where our food money went – and were a little more strict in our eating out – we would be able to make this lower food-a-month goal.  I’m happy to report that including a birthday party and a birthday dinner for the hubby – we met the new food budget goal no problem!

AND to top it off – we both lost weight this month. Budgeting is good for one’s health. 🙂

Total Debt paid in January: $7,276*

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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Tools We Use

Ok – a week or so in, if you don’t know we use material from Dave Ramsey, then you haven’t been reading. 😉

In addition to Dave Ramsey, I love a well done spreadsheet.

I get tired of doing all the writing, and my math skills are often lacking.  Plus, it’s easier to make a line item adjustment, and have it automatically update all the totals rather than redoing bits of the budget.

In addition, a spreadsheet makes it easier to compare budgeted to actual.  It also presents an opportunity to link files month to month, or year to year for additional comparison.

Finally – (and I take zero credit for this) it allows for easier reporting.  I am not an excel wizard, but thanks to Vertex42 – I don’t have to be.  If you need some budgeting spreadsheets – check out some free budgetting resources here.

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Double Whamie to Debt!

We just paid off 2 small student loans. Hi-ya! (picture me karate chopping a debt monster)

In doing so (and not paying just the minimum) we just saved $6,000.

Plus (as you know) those minimum payments are now set to snowball into our next debt.

Hey HVAC – we are staring you down.  Your days are numbered.

Just 5 more to go!  One HVAC system, three medical items, and the Debt Beast – My Master Degree student loan.

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Hello 2012. Goodbye Debt.

Yes – it’s been a while. We’ve been busy in part, starting in on the entire point of this post.

For 2012 – we are getting out of debt.  Everything but the house. How are we going to do this?

1. Go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University — I made a request late last year via facebook if anyone had an unused kit they could lend us. Turns out a very kind friend gave us their old textbook & cds. The kit was practically brand new – several pieces still wrapped in plastic.  Yesterday, we started out strong, listening to the first 3 lessons, so we are in the middle of putting together our monthly budget

2. Make a budget and stick to it — (something we are learning from FPU) We’ve always been good about not spending money we don’t have on a regular basis (our debt is typical student loans, along with medical bills and one HVAC system), but we don’t have a written monthly plan. This step is tricky since the one member of the household is self-employed. It’s tough to try and write down hard numbers (which are still kind of based on estimates). The goal, plan for lower than expected. If we continue to live below our means, see it spelled out as such on paper, we’ll have a much easier time directing everything above the expected amount as available to use in our debt snowball.

4. Use the debt snowball — We are planning to pay off several smaller items right away, leaving one Large Student loan. Because the other debts will be gone, what we would have used for those monthly payments can now all be used against the one remaining loan.  Can you imagine paying 3 times the monthly minimum on something?  Just think – the extra amount (equal to 2 addition monthly minimums) will all go DIRECTLY TO PRINCIPLE.  Sweet! This is the key.  By knocking out chunks of the principle, the payments pick up speed each month, with less and less going to interest, and more and more going to principle. Ultimately knocking out the debt much quicker and saving us thousands in what would have been interest through the years if we just stuck to the minimum.

5. Continue to sell unneeded / unused possessions on Craigslist — The last portion of 2011 saw us raising around $430 from selling items on craigslist.  The plan is to use this extra money to toss into the debt snowball – for even more principle deduction.  (as part of this same plan – really any extra, unexpected money will be used the same – even some of our cash Christmas presents. It may be “boring” but ultimately, it’s a fantastic Christmas present. Think of all the future stress that will be eliminated.  Thanks to all of our loved ones who inadvertently helped us with this cause!)

6. Food, Envelops, and Emeals — We are going to continue using emeals (Highly Recommend them! Save money & time planning out your meals – Check it out Here).  Even when we are busy, three planned meals a week saves us time and money. Plus, we are going to work on using a cash / envelop system to buy all groceries and when we eat out (or order in).  It’s a proven method to make you keenly aware of how much you spend on food – which in turn will help us make wiser choices.  Keeping in mind, every dollar we can cut from the food bill moves over in the budget to chip way at debt.

So there you go. That’s the plan.  By the way, it’s not a resolution, it’s a goal. Something we started working on ending off 2011 and we are making great strides as we start out 2012.

And you know what – I’ll allow for a bit of realism to creep in that says “you never know what unexpected events are going to happen in 2012.  Some of that “extra debt snowball” might realistically be needed to pay for other items in order to prevent accruing new debt. So – don’t be too disappointed if some of your debt carries over to 2013.”

Yep – I know.  But even if that ends up being the case:

1. We didn’t go into new debt to pay for unexpected events & 2. We still made SIGNIFICANT forward movement. That momentum will be so empowering and encouraging.

I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

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