Monday, February 21, 2011

Ten Grand

Tomorrow I'll be taking my van to the shop once again. The cost to work on the suspension will likely be $1000. I cried when I found out. I always cry. I am weak and get frustrated with the unexpectedness of it all. This will put our total van repairs over the 10,000 mark. That's right. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS over the last three years.

So where does that put our loan payoff movement, the one that we started less than a week ago? Right on schedule thanks to the savings we stashed for inevitable circumstances like this one! I'll rebuild our lost savings with extra earnings here and there, and if our balance falls below our comfort level, we'll pause our extra debt payments and focus on nursing the account.

It feels great to feel in charge of our income. I know that it'll take us three years to pay everything, assuming no job loss or tragedy strikes our family. But that's not as terrifying as it used to be, not as overwhelming. I know we're getting ready for something more, a life that God intended us to live. We've purchased college degrees and vehicles on credit, learned first hand why Jesus taught against borrowing money, and now we're finally going to live with financial responsibility. God didn't intend for us to live the three years of financial headache ahead of us; we created that mess. A necessary, self-inflicted life of living paycheck to paycheck is no one's fault but our own. It's strangely empowering to acknowledge that failure; it comes with an awareness that we can control our finances.

If you haven't invested a few minutes into this website, you really should. Mr. Ramsey operates largely on common sense and it's very likely you're already familiar with his financial theory. His conservative, Christian views of financial planning have earned my respect and attention in the last year or so. And for all you Missourians, he'll be visiting Kansas City in two weeks. My husband's busy then, but I'm really considering making the drive and bribing my sis and brother-in-law (hint, hint) into watching my kiddos.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Financial Dieting

I just sealed our first extra vehicle loan payment into its envelope. According to the math, we should be able to pay off the remaining three year term of our loan in... 5 months. When I figured (and refigured) that timeline, there was no way to do anything but dive, head first, back into frugal living. The numbers work on paper; in reality we will undoubtedly be faced with unexpected expenses along the way (like the thousands of dollars we poured into vehicle repairs last year). Realistically, we should be able to finish before Christmas.

We've knocked our vacation plans to the bare bones: our beloved east coast beach vacation... the one that we take almost every other year. We share the cost of a beachfront house in a gated neighborhood with several other families. We make the 16 hour drive there and back without an overnight stay. We spend little extra while there; the beach is our amusement park/spa/party scene. We'll spend $700, far less than the $2,000 I wanted to spend taking the family to Pennsylvania this summer. We could have saved the expense completely and stayed home, but there's something to be said for truly resting and enjoying your family for a week.

Drive thru trips for caffeine have been diminished to once a week, house projects requiring a purchase of materials will be postponed, and the mattress that might have been purchased with a tax return will wait. Yard sales are in the works, an embarrassing amount of baby clothing and gear to purge. Extra income opportunities will go toward debt instead of fun. We'll spend more time at home.

Sure, we'll get off track. We'll kick ourselves for purchases we didn't need. We'll bask in a splurge on pizza for dinner once in a while when this mamma's just worn out. But the reality of our finances is not easily forgotten; I am reminded of the potential power in the budget I've written each time I hold my debit card. At the very least, I'm constantly weighing our financial options and making smarter choices. It's amazing how much money we throw into drive through windows if we're not careful.