Friday, December 6, 2013

No new car, but car payment, either!

We decided not to buy the vehicle from family.  After some serious consideration, we decided that if we were going to spend thousands of dollars on a new-to-us vehicle, it should be one that really meets our needs, not one that is just better than what we’re currently driving.  The SUV we were going to buy would have a little bit more space, but the gas mileage wouldn’t be great and we would want to replace it with a van sometime in the near future.

Making that decision was actually a relief to both of us.  We’re still making payments on Perry’s car and only had enough saved to pay for half of the cost of the SUV.  We really didn’t want to owe his family money or have a second car payment.

Now we’re back to our original plan.  We will pay off Perry’s car and save up for a van.  In the meantime, I will keep driving my 10+ year old car and repairs will be made as needed.  I’ve tracked down maintenance manuals for both of our vehicles in the hopes that we can learn how to do some basic repairs ourselves.  Any skills we can acquire will mean money saved in the future!  For repairs that are more involved than we can confidently handle, we've found a fantastic (and trustworthy!) auto shop within walking distance of our house.

Balance update!

We decided to consolidate two credit card balances that had 22.4% interest onto one with a 10% rate.  The lower rate may not make a huge difference if we get it paid off as quickly as we hope to, but it is one less payment to send out each month and the minimum payment with the new rate is lower than the combined minimum of the two old cards.  There was a long debate about whether or not moving our debt was a good idea, but in the end, we decided that we are still working hard to pay things off and have enough impulse control to keep the credit cards put away and just use cash or debit.

Direct Deposit Advance - $0/$550
Store Card 1 - $0/$323
Credit Card 1 - $0/$400
Line of Credit 1 - $0/$510
Credit Card 2 - $0/$685
Store Card 2 - $0/$2,798
Auto Loan 1 - $0/$4,140
Student Loan 1 - $0/$1,951
Student Loan 2 - $0/$3,148
Credit Card 4 - $0/$2,577
Credit Card 5 - $0/$3,700
Credit Card 3 - $320/$5,150
Line of Credit 2 - $2,830/$5,000
Credit Consolidation – $7,100/$7,100
Student Loan 4 - $4,471/$6,048
Auto Loan 2 - $3,435/$10,000
401k Loan - $1,171/$2,400
Student Loan 3 - $2,552/$5,614

TOTAL REMAINING - $21,879/$56,094

We'll be paying off another credit card this month, then work on tackling the line of credit.  We anticipate some extra income in the coming months from freelance jobs and bonuses, so that will add some snowflakes to our debt snowball.  I've gotten seriously house hungry as of late, so we've been talking more in-depth about long-term financial goals.  Once all debts are paid, we intend to save as aggressively as we have paid down our debt.  We want to have enough cash saved for a healthy down payment.  We also hope that the sale of our townhouse will bring a small profit to add to our down payment.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

So, how was your summer?

We’ve got some catching up to do!

Camping with the family was a real adventure!  The story that will be told over and over is that of our very first night…

We had borrowed a 1970’s canvas tent with heavy steel poles from Perry’s dad rather than buying a new tent for the family.  His would easily fit two parents and three kids and it was kind of like a small canvas one-room house.  It was tall enough that we could stand up and the windows were more than waist high.  It had double door flaps that tied back and let a great breeze flow through.

We arrived at our destination in the afternoon and found my parents had already parked their RV and were preparing dinner for all of us.  Perry and I set up the tent and noted the dark sky and the smell of rain in the air.  After dinner, we hustled the kids into the tent for their first night of camping.  We spent some time settling in and reading books, then tucked in for the night to the sound of gentle rain on the canvas roof.

Somewhere around 4:00 AM, Perry and I were startled awake by strong whips of wind and rain pounding the tent on what seemed like all sides.  Perry and I talked quietly about whether we should move the kids to the car or wake my parents and join them in the RV.  Before a decision was made, another gust of wind knocked down the steel poles on the back side of our tent.  I jumped up to hold the tent wall up while telling the kids to grab their shoes, books, and stuffed animals because we had to run to the camper.  I was trying to hide my panic as the rain was beating through the canvas wall on my back, soaking my clothes.  The wind was swirling around the tent, blowing in the now unsupported walls.  Perry helped the kids find their things while I called my parents’ cell phones repeatedly to wake them and ask them to unlock the RV door.

Within about 45 seconds, everyone was ready to run.  At this point, all sides were collapsed and there was just enough space under my drenched outstretched arms for Perry and the kids to huddle around.  Perry struggled to unzip the 30+ year old zipper, and he and the kids bolted out and ran to the RV.  I followed, dropping the tent and abandoning our pillows and sleeping bags.  Perry insists that I did a barrel roll out of the tent like some kind of ninja.

We made it into the RV and dried off.  Our tent survived another two days, always leaning to one side and threatening to give in to the smallest gust of wind before we decided it would be in our best interest to spend the money to replace it.
After a night in the wind.
We had to laugh about how we’d given the kids a great introduction to camping.  The rest of the trip would be easy after running out of a collapsing tent in a rain storm.  We went on to see an outdoor play of Little House on the Prairie on one of the properties where the Ingalls family lived.  We explored Wall Drug.  We hiked the Badlands.  We saw Mount Rushmore all lit up at night.  The kids earned Junior Ranger badges and promised to appreciate, respect, and protect all national parks when they were officially sworn in.  We saw the Corn Palace and learned a lot about U.S. history.  We ended our trip by surprising the kids with one night at a hotel with a water park where they played to the point of exhaustion, then slept like angels.

It was a great trip and we have tons of family memories.  We’re already thinking about places we can camp and explore next summer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Here's to fifteen years together!

Goodbye, student loan!  I won't miss you at all!

I just sent the final payment for a student loan that has been a part of my life since 1997.  Fifteen years after dropping out of a private college, those general requirement classes are finally paid off.

Direct Deposit Advance - $0/$550
Store Card 1 - $0/$323
Credit Card 1 - $0/$400
Line of Credit 1 - $0/$510
Credit Card 2 - $0/$685
Store Card 2 - $0/$2,798
Auto Loan 1 - $0/$4,140
Student Loan 1 - $0/$1,951
Student Loan 2 - $886/$3,148
Credit Card 5 - $1,716/$1,700
Credit Card 4 - $2,713/$4,577
401k Loan - $1,772/$2,400
Line of Credit 2 - $3,052/$5,000
Student Loan 3 - $3,209/$5,614
Credit Card 3 - $4.718/$5,150
Student Loan 4 - $4,820/$6,048
Auto Loan 2 - $4,978/$10,000

TOTAL REMAINING - $27,864/$54,944

Our "July Fund" of $3,500 is complete as well. This will cover Perry's missing income and our mostly-camping vacation with the family. We're going to have so much fun!

We are planning to buy a vehicle from a family member in June. My 10+ year old sedan is still running well, but it is getting harder and harder to squeeze three kids (all with booster seats) into the back. I've been putting off even thinking about getting a different vehicle because I hate the idea of having a car payment. I grew up one of three kids who shared the back seat of a sedan, but A) we weren't all the same size, so we didn't all need the same amount of space like our three almost-seven-year-olds, and B) the sedans of the 1980's were significantly roomier. We hope to save up enough to pay in full, but that may not be feasible without dipping into our savings. If that is the case, we plan to fork over everything we've saved and pay off the rest as quickly as possible. We're still debating what will happen with my car.

More good news!  I had my annual review last week and I am getting a small raise. Working hard pays off, kids!
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