Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Overspending alert!

I want everyone to be forewarned -- I haven't even done the end of the month finances, but I already know we went WAY over on eating out. We slid back into our old ways of running errands on Monday and taking the recycling money to In-n-Out for lunch. Plus we had to drive to my Number 1 Son's college twice, which requires eating out unless you pack a lunch, which, get real, hardly anybody does. Plus we were celebrating both Basil and I getting into a gallery show together. Of course, how do we like to celebrate? Food! I predict the eating out budget to be upwards of $300. That would have been a good chunk if it had gone to the credit cards. Hopefully it doesn't cause us to actually have a negative balance for the month. I guess this is about the time the New Year's resolutions start to waver, but we're going to try to get back on track next month. We'll take it one day at a time....but with In-n-Out less than a mile away, it'll be difficult.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Posts That Make You Go Hmmm

Divorce to Financial Freedom has a fantastic post titled "One Thing Kept Me in Debt Longer Than I Should Have Been." Check it out.

We're In Debt chimes in on the "living life while in debt" struggle with this post.

The Bizarros Experience A DWL And Live To Tell The Tale

You ever have one of those days where everything goes splendidly? Everything seems to be filled with luck and friendship and love and great weather and it seems like things might actually be going your way, if only for a day? A day that from morning until night contains something akin to magic?

You've just had yourself a DWL, bee-yotch.

A DWL is a Day Well Lived. It means that the day you just experienced is how life could be, and should be, if you weren't in debt. Instead of spaced out every couple of weeks or months or so, there could very well be several, perhaps dozens of DWLs in a row. It's how life would be if we weren't owned by our possessions, owned by corporations - how days must have been during good periods in pretechnological times. Days piled upon days of sunshine, clean air, plenty of game, lots of sex, life lived with a certain purity of living. Life lived well.

...until winter set in. And/or a competing tribe skulked into your camp and separated your head from your neck and put it on a pole. Or raped your family while they slowly cooked you alive. Yes, good times.

Anyway, we had a DWL on Sunday. Bianca and I met with a gallery that is going to show our work, and we're both going to have our work displayed in a way that will guarantee that millions of people will see our creative efforts. Pretty good start, but that in and of itself in no way guaranteed DWL status. After all, it was only noon. The day could most certainly go downhill from there. Trust me, we've had it happen. You never say, "Hey, we might be having a DWL." Lord, no. It's unspoken. You ride it like a wave, letting its warm embrace sweep you through the hours, surfing luck and chance until it deposits you safely on the shore. If you say something, though, it's an automatic jinx and you have really f-ed up, brother. You deserve the collective hell that will rain down upon you.

So. After that bit of exciting news, we dressed up and went to the Hilton at Universal Studios for an Oscar party thrown by my Alma Mater. What a swanky sworiee - and here's where the financial part comes in - free event, free booze, free food, all night. It was amazing. I drank far too much, but no worries, because it was absorbed by the contents of my bursting stomach. Turkey, roast beef or salmon? Yes, please.

We did have to drop some tips for the bartenders, and the free valet parking of course required a tip, but it was one hell of a cheap evening.

You can't make a DWL happen. It's organic, unpredictable. But when you are in its grasp, give yourself up to it, and for God's sake keep your mouth shut. That's what we all want, really: a life filled cradle to grave with Days Well Lived. Impossible, yes. But many more DWLs exist outside of debt than within, that I know for sure.

Monday, February 26, 2007

One payment closer to mine....

Paid $500 more toward my car for my March payment. I like the fact that my car financing company doesn't want me to pay anything until July 17, and then only $117. I feel like I'm getting ahead. Did some quick figuring, and at this rate I'll have it paid off by Christmas. Hopefully I'll be able to make an extra large super-gigantic payment when I get my income tax back, so it'll be paid off sooner. But just realized I have to fly my son to visit his father this summer - plane ticket: approximately $425. I also wanted to fly to visit my 96-year-old grandmother because she hasn't been doing very well lately - another $250-300. I guess the dream of owning my car free and clear may have to wait.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Credit Cards For Illegal Immigrants? Aye Caramba.

Bank of America last week unveiled a pilot program that would offer credit cards to people who do not have Social Security numbers, i.e. illegal immigrants.

It's re-God-damn-diculous.

How more naked will the greed in this industry get? Credit cards for illegal immigrants? You have got to be kidding me. I am a Bank of America customer as well as a resident of the area this is targeting, and I'm considering changing banks.

What next - hobos? Children?

You can read the article here.

$374. That's how much my portion of my dental bill was for a crown. The total bill was $875, so I guess my part isn't as bad as if I'd had no dental insurance. Of course, I could have just left the hole in my mouth, but Milk Duds take a long time to dissolve without chewing. This may make a difference as how much I can pay on my car next month though. I put this on my credit card as well as my contacts, which were $120, so I'll have to pay that off in full next month. Hopefully this was close enough to the end of the month that they may be on two different bills. Maybe I'll get my tax refund before then, but I'm not sure how much I'm getting back since I haven't received that info from my accountant. I guess I won't count on that coming any sooner than the college tuition refund I hope to get back one of these days. In the meantime, now I can have Milk Duds in my popcorn again and I'm happy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Home Ownership Vs. Renting

There have been some fantastic blog entries on this, written by others. Seek them out.

What I'm adding, is this. When you own a home, you miss out on conversations like the following, which took place yesterday outside the door of my apartment. The players: Sal, our manager, mid 70's, distant cousin of Frank Sinatra. The other player: Hispanic Male, mid 30's, from apartment #7. Curtain up...

Sal: "You need to move your car."
Hispanic Male: "What did you say to me, old man?"
Sal: "You need to move your car. You know you can't park there."
Hispanic Male: "You disrespecting me?"
Sal: "I'm saying you need to move your car."

At this point I'm peeking through the blinds. Hispanic Male is now in Sal's "grill." I'm eating Cheetos, riveted.

Hispanic Male: "What'd you say to me, you white bitch? Put up your hands! Put up your hands!"
Sal: "I'm twice as old as you are! You want me to fight you?"
Hispanic Male: "I will kill you. I mean it. I will -- put up your hands!"
Sal (walking away): "You're crazy."
Hispanic Male: "You exist for one reason, to get me what I need. You hear me? Get me what I need, bitch!"
Sal (off screen): "You're a lunatic!"
Hispanic Male: "Bitch!"


"What A Wonderful World" plays over credits.

I tell myself I would have intervened if it would have gotten physical. But then again, I tell myself a lot of things.

Apartments=free entertainment brought right to your door.

New Update - Via NCN

Our new update is up at the No Credit Needed Network. We really did some debt damage this past month. 8.39% knocked off in a little over a month.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Library: It's Not Just For Photocopying And Sleeping Anymore

Okay, you're doing good: you've made a budget, have stopped pissing away your nickels and dimes on overpriced lattes and getting hair extensions. You've gotten serious. You may begin to panic, saying to yourself, "I'm bored. Spending money gave me something to do. What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?" It's okay. Settle down. There are fantastic free things out there. One of them is easy: the library.

Now, if you haven't been to a library lately, there are some new developments afoot. Most libraries now have incredible online catalogs that allow you to log on from the comfort of your own home, order books, and in some cases the next day, you can pick them up at the library. And not just books - magazines, DVD's, audio books, CD's, etc. No longer can you use the excuse that the last new book your library got in was "Ordinary People" and the building smells like grandparents. These catalogs work off your entire system, so just about any materials in the system are eligible for you to check out. It's all delivered right to your neighborhood library for pick up. I've tried my best to find something they don't carry, and find it nearly impossible.

I don't know what I would have done without this. I've read so many good books and watched so many great DVD's it's unbelievable. In terms of finding great music alone utilizing my library to the fullest has been, honestly, one of the best decisions I've made during my debt struggle.

And best of all, it's free.

And if you pick up stuff at my library, one of the librarians looks like Scarlett Johansson. Which is a bonus. Also free. Not her, she's not free, just looking at her is.

If Britney can do it....

If Britney Spears can shave her own head, then I shouldn't have to pay big bucks to keep my curly locks manageable. Since Basil posted that he stopped getting haircuts, I thought I'd try the same. As I don't sport a buzz cut, I opted to barter with a friend who does haircuts for her family and friends. I had an extra DVD player sitting around and she happened to mention that her dad was still watching video tapes because he didn't have a DVD player. So a couple of days ago, she came over for dinner and then trimmed about 2 inches off . My hair is very curly and was fairly long, so it's pretty forgiving. Not that she gave me a bad haircut, it's just that usually you can't really tell with my hair. I've been known to cut my own bangs before work in the morning if they're behaving badly. So I saved $15-$20 -- I never went anywhere fancier than SuperCuts anyway, but every little bit helps. Next time maybe Britney can cut my hair in exchange for an old toaster.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Debt Celebrities: "Debt Made Me Famous, But Paying It Off Made Me Beautiful."

Hearty congratulations go out to our pals Blogging Away Debt and NCN, among others, who were featured in the illustrious New York Times! Debt blogging has arrived. It's here to stay.

Check out the article here.

I just hope I don't see Tricia from Blogging Away Debt in a photo arm in arm with Brittney Spears, or in big sunglasses getting into a Land Rover with Paris Hilton. We all lose when debt blogging goes from underground to the new chic. Or do we all win? What in God's name am I prattling on about? All I'm saying is that when Nicole Richie goes into debt just to be a debt blogger, I'm getting out of the game.

Here's how I look at it. Debt bloggers are like the Justice League of America. We all have different "powers," ways of documenting our struggle, financial situations, etc. But we're all in it for the same reason, "fighting injustice," or, getting our spandexed asses out of large financial holes. It's inspiring fighting alongside these illustrious heroes of personal finance.

I don't want to be Aquaman, though. Sigh. I'm Aquaman, aren't I?

Damn it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hair cuts? We don't need no stinking hair cuts

Haircuts are for moneybags. Haircuts are what rich people get because nobody buys People magazine, not even rich people, and it gives them a chance to catch up on who has cellulite and a new purse-dog. So they go get haircuts.

Not me. I'm done with the ritual. I'm no dandy. Bianca shears me like a sheep, now, and as I rub my head I say, "$12 towards debt." Then I look at the floor and say, "Christ, is that gray hair?"

You find the cash. That's the secret. Stop spending, and find the cash. It's here. It's there.

It's in your hair.

I will miss going to my hairstylist, a braces-grilled cherub-faced Jennifer Coolidge look-alike from Eastern Europe who says things like, "Happy American New Year, have a you like?" And "Yeah supercool wanna make chop-chop, I'm happy sad." I've yet to see a worse grasp of the English language. I'd always come home with blood on my collar, but love in my heart for the American dream.

Over the last two days I sold $120 worth of art on I'm lighting the fuse on that $120 and throwing it at Discover card.

We are so weak!!!

So far this month we're not doing very well on the dining out aspect. Yesterday we went to Chipotle for our Valentine's dinner, though we did have a free burrito coupon, so dinner was less than $8. Still, we felt guilty. To get around the lack of eating out, I bought Basil an In-n-Out gift card for Valentine's day. How romantic, I know. But if you knew Basil, you'd know that the best gifts for him are food-related.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Victory For A Fellow Debt-Blogger

Check out this post over at Beyond Broke. She did it. Debt free.

Good for her - she's breathing freedom. Can't wait to get there.

Congratulations, Beyond!

Current Debt Total

New debt total, just in: $21,892.59. The bulk of that is mine; Bianca should be debt free within the year!

We're jazzed! I wish this was 1991 so we could drink some Zima to celebrate.

Two Months In The Black? What The Hell...?

Unbelieveable. Obviously we mean business.

So here's how I was able to pay off over a grand to the credit cards:

1. Copious overtime
2. Selling property (books)
3. Getting a second "job"

If you read a lot of "get out of debt" books, you start to notice some things nearly everybody says. "Get a second job" is one suggestion I've read quite a bit. But since I hate my current job, and let's face it, finding a second job you love isn't likely to happen, I fell on my creative skills and started making things to sell on a website called This is a website for artists and craft-minded folk to sell their handmade wares on "the Intra-nets."

I started off using scraps I had around the house and started making things. Used foamboard, a drawer full of magnets, paint left over from a mural - and started making art like a squirrel with a nose full of coke. I started at the end of January (when the book sales were leveling out) and so far have made well over $200. All that money went directly to credit cards via Billpay through the bank. As soon as the cash hit my account from Paypal, it went away. Simple. No keeping any for "little emergencies" or "I need this, I deserve this" crap - just gone.

I'm doing a "debt snowball, which means I'm throwing everything at my highest interest rate card, which is currently 5.9%. I'm using art, my "second job," to chip away at the mountain. And it feels good.

Finally! January's Income and Expenses!

Well, I finally got the January income/expense sheet done. I'll put up the December one as well so you can see if we did any better.

Income: Our income was higher because Basil went through our bookshelves and sold anything he hadn't looked at for a while. I wasn't as generous and kept all my books, though I don't have nearly as many as he does either.
A lot of the expenses don't change from month to month, like rent, and gas for the cars remains around $250, though January was higher because Basil had to pay for gas for the company car, but was reimbursed for it. I raised my car payment to $500 and did that again in February. I hope I can keep it up because I actually feel better getting into my car knowing that it's getting closer to being all mine, debt free.
Clothing is something we've really cut back on, though we didn't buy many clothes in December, probably because of the holidays. We only had to buy Basil one pair of work pants in January. I may have to break down and buy a pair of jeans as I only have one pair that can actually be worn in public, unless I don't want to breathe or eat.
Credit Cards: Basil only paid $326 toward the credit cards in December because we were busy buying gifts, and upped the payments to $1012 in January. Yea! It would be nice if we could keep that up, but we both had a lot of overtime in January and both our jobs will be slowing down in the spring and summer.
Dining: I know we were trying to cut out all dining, but we did at least cut it by more than half. We still spent $145 on eating out, but some of that was me eating with my co-workers and other times were when we were picking people up from the airport, etc. I'd say we're doing much better, but we just ate out yesterday for dinner and today for lunch in celebration of my getting two paintings accepted into group shows at two new gallerys. We took my son out with us for dinner which ran $40 last night and today's lunch was $20. I guess we'd better get back to In-n-Out if we want to keep within out budget.
College Expenses: These were down because my son finally filled out his loan forms so I think they're all coming through and I won't have to pay any more tuition til next fall (so I'd better have my car paid off then).
Gifts Given: Under this category, some of the Christmas presents were put on credit cards, and I have a niece who has a birthday in January.
Groceries: We were afraid that groceries would go up since we cut back on eating out, but were pleasantly surprised to find they actually fell by $3. What's up with that?
Household: Our household category is usually small, but before we started this new year, I panicked and replaced our VCR which had died with a DVR/VCR which I'd put on a credit card and paid for this month.
Misc.: This contains all the stuff that doesn't quite fit under any other category: soap, detergent, shampoo, etc.
Postage: Our postage is still high because Basil's been shipping all the books, so hopefully it will come down next month.
Utilities: This remains pretty much the same, except for the Natural Gas bill which apparently we hadn't paid for four months. Neither of us remember getting a bill, and upon checking the accounts, it hadn't been paid since October. I'm not sure who was getting out bills, but now we will be getting our bills via e-mail and will not have one as large as this again. Laundry means the quarters that go to paying for it. I used to have my own washer and dryer and after years of saving quarters I finally felt like a grown up. Now I'm in an apartment and back to saving quarters. One day I will be able to do laundry at midnight if I want to and not leave my house....

So that's it. I'm glad we're in the black for two months in a row. After looking at last year's Quicken accounts, I see we were in the black for only 50% of the year, and the other six months we spent more than we made. Not this year.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Healthy Choices and College Bills

I didn't get the January budget posted because Basil's been too busy to put his end-of-January expenditures into Quicken. Wow, it's a lot easier blaming it on him, but I'm really not sure if I would have gotten around to it anyway. We both had 3-day weekends so we were trying to do fun, free things. As we live on the west coast and the weather was beautiful, we went on a couple of short hikes and then Monday we had free tickets a co-worker gave me to the zoo. Last year we would have gone shopping and out to lunch and been poorer and fatter all because we wanted to get out and enjoy the weather.

I just got my son's college tuition bill (it gets paid monthly) and one of his loans came through and the other is pending (he had failed to finish the paperwork last semester and mom had to pay the difference). Mom didn't want to pay more this semester, and will hopefully be getting a refund once all the grants and loans come through. I'm not sure how much it will be, but it will probably go to paying off the car. I already feel better driving it knowing that I paid $1000 towards it in the past two months.

I'm also working ounfilling out my son's FAFSA paperwork for next year's college financial aid. I thought I'd have my taxes done before it's due (March 2), but I lost a tax form from my money market fund and had to call them to send me another one. I'm going to work on the FAFSA this weekend as well as the January income/expense sheet.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Help! I'm falling apart!

I have an appointment to get my broken tooth fixed tomorrow. They said since I'd never been there before, they won't have time to run my insurance, and they weren't sure how much was covered. I said it didn't matter because I needed the tooth fixed anyway. My co-worker thought it would be $500-$600 and the insurance would pay 80 percent. That would still be $120 out-of-pocket for me. Plus my contacts should be in soon and it will be $205 for the contacts and the "fitting". I've worn contacts for over 25 years and I don't think I need to be taught how to put them in and clean them. Anyway, insurance pays up to $120, so $75 out-of-pocket for the contacts. This is getting to be a pretty expensive month for medical expenditures. A total of around $200 to see and eat again. Sounds pretty cheap put that way. And at least I have insurance now. I haven't had dental insurance for the past five years or so, and that's probably the last time I went to the dentist (I'm ashamed to say since my parents were always really good about taking me and my three sisters every six months and they didn't have insurance either).
I'll try to do the end of the month income and expense sheet for January this weekend and post it by Monday.