Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don’t Tell Dave

I love Dave Ramsey.

Some have even accused me of having a crush on him.

I don’t, but he is a cutie for an older man. 

I am, however, totally jealous of him.  Not of his money, but of his job. 

He is what I want to be when I grow up.  (If I can’t be Judge Marilyn Milian.)

I want to help people with money.  How awesome would that be to do everyday? 

We used his FPU system to get out of debt.  And as a government shutdown looms, I am ever-so-thankful to be debt-free.

I also really like Suze Orman (personal lifestyle aside.)  And Gail Vaz-Oxlade, aka the Canadian Suze.  I know I’ve mentioned her before, but her TV show is pretty awesome.  Eye-opening how many people don’t have a budget….at all.

I understand the psychology behind Dave’s “Snowball” method, but we kinda developed a hybrid system from all of them that made sense to us.

The #1 thing they all agree on – pay off debt – as much, as fast, as you can!

Suze definitely says you should continue contributing to your retirement while paying off debt – especially f you’re lucky enough to have a company match – it’s free money!!!

Shhh…Don’t tell Dave…We contributed to our retirement while paying off our debt.

Gail says you should save for emergencies while paying down debt.  Especially if you have something like unpaid leave, a medical procedure, a large repair, that you know is coming your way.

Shhh…Don’t tell Dave… After we paid off my husband’s truck, we set aside $200/mo. while we were getting out of debt. 

Shhh…Don’t tell Dave…  We didn’t pay off our smallest debts first.  We paid off the biggest payments, but that was mainly because I knew an unpaid maternity leave was coming…quick!

So no, we didn't obey all the rules of FPU.

Chances are there is no perfect method that will work for your family either.

But utilizing the STRUCTURE that any of these methods provide, you will find a method that works to get you from negative point A to point B - which is somewhere in the black.

No matter what methods you use, remember: "Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later." - Dave Ramsey

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My “Give & Take” on Tithing

I’ve been in church my whole life.  Literally, I think I was around 10 days old at my first church service.

First here

Then here

Now here

At these churches, I’ve had some amazing pastors.  But they all have the one thing in common.

They hate talking about tithing!

Once in a blue moon, I’ll hear them throw it in a sermon, but I think I’ve only heard one sermon actually dedicated to tithing.

Between you & me, I think it makes them uncomfortable.  Maybe because they know our tithes are their livelihood. 

(On a side note, one of my pet peeves is pastors who believe the church needs to pay their family.  The Bible does not command us to support your father, great uncle, wife, kids, 2nd cousin twice removed, to do nothing.  But don’t even get me started on that soapbox.  That’s another post for another day.)

But I got a question the other day.  It’s a common question for those of us who are taking a hard look at our finances while trying to squeeze every last drop out of our budget. 

Should I tithe while paying down my debt?

Simple answer: “YES!”

It is so hard.  My husband often would say, “How the heck are so-n-so able to spend so much money?  They make less than we do!”  And I’d remind him, “They probably don’t pay tithes.” 

10% doesn’t seem like much, but it can be a huge chunk of money.  I’ll be honest.  I have a hard time with it. 

Extremely hard time with it. 

There have been times where it’s been harder than others.  (See soapbox above.)

I wish I could say that we faithfully tithed since day one.  But when we first began our debt-free journey, I saw that *EXTRA* money.  I thought about how much “faster” we could get out of debt if we used that money towards debt. 
Don’t try it; it doesn’t work.

I figured out that if you don’t give it to God, He will probably take it from you.  Unexpected car repairs, dental bill, an abnormally large utility bill.  I’ve had it happen to me several times.  Just two weeks ago, we were out of town when our check was “due.”  I totally forgot about it and didn’t realize we didn’t tithe till I balanced our checkbook on Saturday.  Yeah…we just had a $680 heat pump repair bill.  (You’d think I’d learn by now!)

I’ve found splitting it up into smaller checks seems to help me. A lot of pastors would probably scold me for giving with the “wrong” attitude.  (I think that stems from my soapbox.)  But we’re doing it.  I can say it does get easier when you’re debt-free.  Finding ministries you’re passionate about and giving to them, make it easier.  But I don’t know if I’ll ever master tithing with a grateful heart.

We could get into the “sin” and all that, but I’m not here to judge or cast stones.  I could list half a dozen Bible verses, but it all boils down to this: It’s commanded.  Period.  Right up there with the “Big Ten.” 

If you don’t believe me, try it.  Just one month.  God will abundantly bless.  You will be able to do more with 90% than you could ever have done with 100%.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tribute to Kelly

This post isn’t about money, debt, taxes, or interest.  This post is a tribute to one of my best friends my family members, who was an amazing, faithful friend and will never be forgotten.

Our dog, Kelly, was a 10 year old German Shepherd who developed hip dysplasia last fall. 

We got her and her sister, Piper, when they were 3 years old.  They’re pure German Shepherd, but have chicken allergies and couldn’t be bred.  They’ve been part of our family for almost 7 years. 

She rapidly deteriorated over the winter to the point where she literally dragged her back end. 

You should know that I am an avid animal lover.  To me, they’re not just pets; they become part of my family.  This has led us to spending possibly hundreds of dollars on supplements, vitamins, and treatments desperately hoping for a miracle.

I tried to talk my husband into surgery, but was told, even by her breeder, that it would be a complete waste to spend a couple thousand dollars on a 10 year old dog that very well may have cancer.  (The vet found a cyst on her hip and a tumor in her ear.)

We had discussed when would be “the time” and had, long ago, decided that if she could no longer walk or was in obvious pain, we would not let her suffer.

Over the cold winter, I watched her condition worsen, but the day I’d been dreading came…on Friday.

My husband went to let the dogs out to use the bathroom and try as she might, Kelly just could not get up.  And he knew.  And she knew.  And I knew. 

I’ve decided there is no “right time” to lose a pet.  It’s always painful.  Needless to say, it’s been a hard couple days in our house. 

Growing up, we had pets run off, hit by cars, mysteriously disappear, but never did we have to choose.  And to be honest, I know in my brain, it was the right decision, but my heart says something else.  If I could pay money, I’d probably go back and undo it, knowing full well, it’s just prolonging the inevitable. 

I don’t know how long it will take me to get used to it.  I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know if you do get used it.  I keep reminding myself that there are people who are taking their child for chemo, or burying their soldier, and they would gladly trade places with me - saying goodbye to my furry girl.

Saturday was the day.

And after it was over, my son said, “Mommy, Kewwee [Kelly] went to live at Jesus’ house.  He’ll take care of her.”  I am so glad I have a God who will take care of the most monumental of all things, my eternal salvation, and what some may see as the most trivial, my Kelly. 

Love you, girl!  See you up there someday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Frozen Money

You know who has amazing ice?


I love Sonic ice.

Small and round.  Perfect for eating.

Reminds me of the Holiday Inn iced tea that I used to drink with my Aunt Peggy when I was about 8.

You know who else has great ice?


Their ice is rectangular, but hollow.  Perfect for crushing without chewing.

And certain McDonalds, Burger Kings, & O‘Charley’s.  It’s especially good when it’s down to the bottom of the ice machine and it’s all small and piece-y.

Bad ice – Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, Outback, and Olive Garden.

Oohhh.  The thousands of dollars I’ve spent in ice.  Well, I don’t know if it’s actually thousands.  But probably close. 

And when I find a place with good ice – I crave it.  It’s the closest I’ll ever come to knowing what’s it’s like to have a nicotine addiction. 

Even now, just *talking* about it, makes me want it.  I literally get almost a metal taste in my mouth till I eat ice.

I developed a bad habit of eating ice when I was pregnant with my second child.  But I have extremely sensitive teeth.  Cant even bite a popsicle.  So I have to crush ice with my tongue. 

A medium cup at Sheetz filled with 7/8 ice
1/8 Diet Dr.
Pepper costs me $1.42.  So, I probably spent $250 in frozen water last year.

Ashamed?  Yes.  I could’ve done a lot with $250.  It used to be a couple tanks of gas.  (Now – probably one!)  But $250 groceries for a couple weeks.  And I spent that in ice.  I’ve cut my ice addition down to once (ok – maybe twice) a week.

I’m considering starting a spin-off group named Ice Eaters Anonymous.  Wonder if I can get on TLC for that? 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Secret Money Crushes

All this talk about putting needs before wants, is good and all.  But honestly, I have a few (ridiculously lavish) things in my life that I secretly really, really want. 

They are not a need.  (Front tooth – need; jaguar – want.)  But I still really want them.  Will I ever get them?  Hopefully.  Soon?  Nah.  (Again college fund – need; Tiffany earrings – want.)  But I’m going to share them anyway!!!

I want a Louis Vuitton Bucket Tote.

I want a pair of black peep toe high heels by Christian Louboutin.  (You know the amazing ones with the red soles?)  Love them!!!!  Even though I know I’d break an ankle in them.

I want to stay in a Presidential Suite in the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World.

Will any of these things ever happen in my life?  Probably not.

I will probably never have an occasion to wear 4” heels and, more than likely, no one would ever appreciation my $900 Christian Louboutins.  Last time I checked, Carrie Bradshaw doesn’t attend my church.

So, I’ll stick with my $40 Mary Jane Clarks.

Some of the women in my circle of friends would know if I got a “Louis.”  They’d probably even be savvy enough to tell the difference between an $80 knock off and the $500 real thing.  But they’re more impressed with a new $40 Vera Bradley.

Paying $1950/night for a room seems ridiculous when you can splurge on Savannah room in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  But until I stop paying the mortgage or for daycare, I'll be at the $89/night uber-crowded All-Star resort.

Do I actually need any of these things?  Nah… 

But one day, you’ll see me…at the Grand Floridian in my Christian Louboutins with my Louis over my shoulder…probably riding a motorized scooter and wearing a LifeAlert necklace being thankful that I lived like no one else now, so that I could live like no one else later!

The Real People's Court

First, I’d like to thank my sister, Leah, for guest posting yesterday.  She’s an amazing blogger.  (If you’re looking for a funny, weight loss, decorating, mommy blog – hers is AMAZING!)

I was watching People’s Court yesterday.

No – that wasn’t a typo.  I love Judge Marilyn Milian. 

I love the fact that she can tell people to shut up and they have to listen. I love the fact that she can reduce a teenage bully to tears on national television.  I love the fact that sometimes she wears jeans and tennis shoes under her robe.  She’s what I want to be when I grow up. 

Anyhow, there was a case about a vehicle accident.  During the commercial, Harvey Levin, did his little public interview/cut away segment.  He asked a lady who was missing her one of her front teeth (I swear) what she would do if she was the driver of the vehicle.  This woman, apparently so intent on showing the world her toothless grin but obvious ??? vast wealth, completely ignored the question and stated, “I’d never drive that car.  I only drive Jaguars.”

Really?  Seriously?

You only drive Jaguars, but don’t bother replacing your front tooth? 

If you can afford a Jaguar, you can probably afford a concierge dentist. 

If only he’d look like concierge doctor, Hank Lawson, from Royal Pains!! 

Actually, Evan R. Lawson is more my type.  (He’s the CPA brother of Dr. Hank.  Go figure.)

After reading through Leah’s post yesterday, I was clearly reminded how so many of us tend to forego real needs in our life, like a broken or missing tooth, in order to pursue the wants. 

Little do we realize by pursuing the image-making wants - like a Jaguar - we  are actually damaging our reputation.

I mean, really…how reputable is a woman with no teeth who only drives Jaguars?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Measuring Up

Hi All!  This is Leah from Behind the Stone Wall.

I'm Sarah's sister and she asked me to post a little something for her today.

Lucky for her, I come prepared! 

I knew just what to post about.

This morning I got an email from Coach Factory Outlets.

The email description read "Bleecker Floral Totes, $199 + 30% off"

And immediately, I thought, "Wow, that's a great deal"

So I opened it and found this flyer by in my inbox....

And I'll admit, for a split second I was tempted.

A Coach purse for only $140....

And then I remembered the purse I got for Christmas.

You know, the one that I L-O-V-E, LUUUUUUUUUUUURVE.

The one that cost all of $40.

Immediately, I closed the email and deleted it.

As women we have temptations to spend thrown at us daily.

We see our friends carrying overpriced handbags and think, "If she can have one..."

We want bigger houses, nicer cars, prettier shoes and better skin than everyone around us.

Because that's what the media tells us we need.

And they market it to us as being "affordable", especially if we finance it over 3 years...or 5 years...or 30 years....

But lately, I have come to realize that as much as I want my shoes to be as nice as my girlfriends, and my cars to be as hybrid-y, there are things are just more important.

Things like being able to save for college.

And pay doctor bills.

And buy new tires for my car.

And diapers....

Things that I NEED.

More than things I want.

This is how I know I am old.

Because having a handbag as nice as my girlfriends' isn't as important as making sure my kid can go to a good school.

Or maybe it isn't old as much as it is responsibility.

Huh, who knew I had it in me?

Let's not tell anyone about this, K?

It could really ruin my reputation!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where Does It All Go?

Some months, I look through our spending and think, “Man, we did good!” 

Other months, I think, “What happened?”

Every month, I have the best of intentions. 

Then I get out of bed.

2 plane tickets to San Diego – NOT IN THE BUDGET – suddenly have become part of our budget – and fast.

$150 in medicine for a dog that can barely walk that neither of us have to heart to put down – NOT IN THE BUDGET

A new cookbook that I just have to have – NOT IN THE BUDGET

5 doctor visits in 3 weeks – all with co-pays and prescriptions.  Do I need to even say it?

Money just seems to sprout wings and fly out of my wallet some times. 

So I wondered if I could not spend for two weeks.  

(Other than necessities – like gas to get to work to earn the money!)

My answer – BIG FAT NO!

My better half and the oldest little tike went to San Diego this week.  (Reference above.)  So I decided I would skip buying groceries.  That would be $250 back in my pocket.  I have not done any grocery shopping – at all – and only have $80 bucks left!  How does that happen?

$10 bucks for ear phones for the plane ride
$15 bucks in children’s fever reducers, pain killers, ear plugs
$20 bucks for cash for trip
$85 co-pays
$30 prescriptions
$10 – I actually have no clue

So much for my theory of not buying groceries will save money. 

I’m not much richer – just hungry.

Note to self:  Start a line item in the budget labeled “Everything else that could possibly happen in life.”