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April Finances and Goals

We’ve got some big financial changes coming our way in April! First, my flight loan payments have been suspended until we pay off all of our debt with more than a 4% interest rate. Second, Hubby got promoted! This comes with a small pay increase, which we’ll see the second pay period in April. Third, we updated Hubby’s W-2 so that less money is taken out for taxes (having thousands of dollars come back to us each year is great and all, but that’s an interest free loan we’re giving the government. Not cool, yo. We’re hoping that our adjustments will help keep more moolah in our pockets). And finally, our bills have changed thanks to some adjustments I made.

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April’s pay periods are from March 31st- April 13th, then from April 14th- April 29th. It’s the third month of our snowball reduction plan! So far we’ve paid off $7,632.09!

Our total income for this month (not including extra money from my various side ventures) is expected to be around $2,373 (this is a very rough estimate, since I’m not sure how much of a raise Hubby is getting).

We have these bills:

  • Insurance: $170
  • Internet: $50
  • Cell Phones: $42
  • Disneyland Tickets: $99
  • Netflix: $8
  • Savings: $110
  • Haircuts: $40
  • Total: $519.00

And these budgets:

  • Gas: $250
  • Food: $200
  • Miscellaneous: $200
  • Hubby’s Birthday Present: $200 (He’s been asking me for more stuff than a three year old in a toy store, so I’m just giving him cash this year. He can spend it however he wants, and hopefully he’ll stop bugging me for things we can’t afford)
  • Total: $850.00

We owe:

  • Credit Card #1: $1,138.74
  • Credit Card #2: $2,465.75
  • Car Loan: $9,668.39
  • Truck Loan: $0.00!! Woohoo!
  • Line of Credit: $478.18
  • Student Loan: $8,900.00
  • Total: $22,651.06 ($4,082.67 of this is high interest)

This month, our snowball payment plan looks like this. We’ve raised our usual $900/month payment to $1,000/month in accordance with Hubby’s raise! The number in bold is the one we’re making extra payments towards. Everything else is getting the minimum payment.

  • Credit Card #1: $25.00
  • Credit Card #2: $603.34
  • Car Loan: $321.66
  • Line of Credit: $50.00
  • Student Loan: $0.00 (remember, my aunt told us to stop paying this in order to put that money towards our interest bearing debts. Thanks, Auntie!)
  • Total: $1,000.00

Goals

  • Pay off $1,100 worth of debt. This will require me making an extra $100 this month and putting it towards paying off debt. Last month my math got a little messed up, so hopefully April will be a better month! I safeguarded by doing my math with an actual calculator and some coffee this time, instead of relying on mental math and decaf tea.
  • Re-evaluate our debt payment plan with Hubby’s new pay information. We won’t have access to this until sometime in April, so we’re kind of flying blind this month as we adjust to a new salary. This goal may get pushed back to May just so we can wait for MyPay to update.
  • Re-evaluate our month-to-month budget based on Hubby’s new pay information. I also cut some expenses last month to save even more money, so we’ll see how things work out! We might be able to put more towards paying off debt. This also might get pushed back to May.
  • Sell our boat. We bought our boat with every intention of using it to go fishing, but as it turns out, it’s a pain in the butt to go boating here in Southern California between the traffic, fees, and inspections. This gets filed under “stupid money decisions we made when we were young”, and also under “Ways Wyoming is better than SoCal”. I want the space in my garage, and the money in our pockets (or in one of my snowball columns!).
  • Complete a pantry challenge. For the month of April, we’re going to be eating exclusively out of our pantry, fridge, and freezer. I will go to the grocery store for a few perishable things, like milk and eggs, and to spend our WIC checks, but our grocery budget is $50 each week for the three (sometimes four) of us, which will allow us to still indulge a little in our Thursday dinners out and my group of toddler mothers babbling like maniacs about grownup topics coffee date with friends. This will include a week-long visit from my in-laws. I’m hoping to have a clear pantry and freezer by the end of this. I’ll then start filling our freezer with meals for after Baby is born in early July!
  • Post 5 items on Bookoo every day. Like I said, we’re moving in November and I’m hoping to clear out our crap long before we actually have to move. Posting 5 items each day should help a lot.
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Good News, Everyone!

If you read that in Professor Farnsworth’s voice, we should be friends.

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Anyways, the good news! I e-mailed my Aunt, who holds my student loan, and told her about our forays into paying off all of our debt ASAP.She isn’t currently charging us any interest on the $9,000 flight loan, which is fantastic as is, but she offered to let us postpone any more loan payments until we’ve payed off all our high interest (more than 4%) debt first. This means an extra $100 each month to put towards our interest bearing debts, which means we’ll be out of high interest debt a month sooner than planned! This may not sound like a lot, especially considering the last debt we’ll pay off currently has a 0% introductory interest rate, so we won’t actually save any money. However, we will now be out of high interest debt one day before Hubby separates from the Marine Corps!! That means less headaches, less money for us to pay each month to other people, and more of a chance for us to save some money if we can continue paying off an extra EXTRA $100 each month with my unbudgeted income.

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Why Our 1 1/2 Year Old Gets Allowance

We give our 1 1/2 year old son allowance. It’s not a lot- $10 per month, plus the contents of our change jar. A lot of my friends think we’re nuts, until I explain our reasoning.

And yes, that is a recycled (clearance) applesauce jar

And yes, that is a recycled (clearance) applesauce jar

Instead of handing Little Man a crisp Hamilton every month, we have an allotment set up to take $5 from each paycheck and deposit it into LM’s very own savings account on the 1st of the month, where it earns a modest 0.15% interest. We also deposit the change in our change jar into this account whenever it starts to get full. We see this deposit as an investment in Little Man’s future. When he graduates high school and decides what to do with his life, he’ll have a nice little chunk of moolah set aside to help him out. When he gets a little bit older and starts to want things, we’ll divide his allowance and give him part of it to use each month, but we will still require him to put part of it into his savings account. My mother did this for me, and I feel like it helped me learn the value of money.

This decision is prompted by my husband and I’s upbringings. Hubby’s family didn’t talk about money, and his parents didn’t teach him about savings or interest. They lived paycheck to paycheck, so this wasn’t an oversight on their part- they just didn’t have money to save, so it never came up. He was expected to pay for his own car, his own phone, his own school supplies, etc. His idea of getting a paycheck was spending a paycheck. My mom, on the other hand, was always very clear about savings. She required me to put half of any money I got into my savings account, and we sat down once a month to talk about how my money was growing. When I got a good amount in my account- usually $500- she would buy a stock in my name, then we would discuss how it was doing. I learned a lot from her. Don’t get me wrong, I still made my fair share of money mistakes, but looking back I’m so glad I had those early lessons.

We want Little Man to have that experience. We want him to understand how money and time work together, and we want him to understand the concept of delayed gratification. When he gets older and wants an expensive toy, or a car, or his own cell phone, he’ll have to save up for those things. I know this won’t keep him from making money mistakes, but it should give him a strong foundation

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We Paid Off The Truck!

We paid off the truck today!

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Never fear, my frugal readers, we won’t be celebrating with champagne. I can’t drink it, and Hubby doesn’t like it. We’ll be popping open some super highbrow juice boxes (which you know I used coupons on) and toasting each other tonight. To living without debt! To having a vehicle paid off! Hooray! It’s a very liberating feeling. Even better is that this comes on the day Hubby starts his TRS classes in preparation to leave the safety net of the military.

We paid the truck off using the CD that matured recently, as well as the money we set aside each month for the minimum truck payment + some overage. We put the remainder of our CD towards opening a new CD at +4% interest, and to paying off our next highest interest debt (the line of credit). As of today, we owe $22,331.37 , $3,777.52 of which is high interest (above -4%). Putting this money towards paying off the truck instead of champagne, a new T.V, or something else frivolous has bumped our date of freedom up by 2 months!

We now have 5 debts instead of 6!

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March Finances and Goals

Last month, Hubby and I were very successful in paying down our debt. This was largely due to a big fat tax refund, and some yard sale income. We reduced our debt by more than $6,000 last month alone! We’re hoping to do well this month as well.

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March’s pay periods are from Feb 27- March 12, and March 13- March 31st. This second pay period is one of the longest this year, so our budget will be stretched a little more than normal. March is the second month in our snowball debt reduction! So far we’ve paid off $6,150.66!

Our total income this month (which does not include any extra money I make from various side ventures) is $3,519.

We have these bills (all amounts are rounded up to the nearest dollar):

  • Insurance (because of the pay periods, we’ll have two insurance bills:              $338.00
  • Internet                                                                                                                   $65.00
  • Cell Phones                                                                                                           $42.00
  • Disneyland Tickets                                                                                                $99.00
  • Netflix                                                                                                                     $8.00
  • Savings (We’ll have an extra $100 start up on a new CD)                                   $200.00
  • Citrus Lane                                                                                                            $17.00
  • Haircuts                                                                                                                 $50.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                                                                  $819.00

And these budgets:

  • Gas:                                                                                                                       $200.00
  • Food and Dining:                                                                                                   $500.00
  • Miscellaneous:                                                                                                       $100.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                                                                  $800.00

We Owe:

  • Credit Card #1:                                                                                                        $1,163.74
  • Credit Card #2:                                                                                                        $2,508.67
  • Car Loan:                                                                                                                 $9,975.51
  • Truck Loan:                                                                                                             $1,210.85
  • Line of Credit:                                                                                                           $499.65
  • Student Loan:                                                                                                          $9,000.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                                                                    $24,358.42

This month, our snowball payment plan looks like this. It includes $1000 from a maturing CD. Payments that are over the minimum are in bold:

  • Credit Card #1:                                                                                                        $25.00
  • Credit Card #2:                                                                                                        $51.00
  • Car Loan:                                                                                                                $321.66
  • Truck Loan (This will be paid off this month!!):                                                     $1,210.85
  • Line of Credit:                                                                                                          $192.34
  • Student Loan:                                                                                                           $100.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                                                                    $1,900.00

Goals

  • Pay off $2000 of debt. Our normal month-to-month debt payment is $900, and we have an extra $1,000 to put towards our debt from a maturing CD. I will have to make $100 from yard sales, side jobs, and Textbroker in order to meet this goal!
  • Pay off Hubby’s truck! It’ll be nice to have one vehicle’s title in hand.
  • Deal with our maturing CD. Last month, one of our goals was to come up with a plan for this money, and this month we’ll execute this plan. We have decided to take $100 and use it to open a new 1-year CD at 4% interest. This is the minimum amount allowed to open a CD. We will take $1000 and put it towards paying off debt, and any remaining money will go into our emergency account at 4% interest. We debated investing the entire amount, but saving money at +4% interest doesn’t make sense when we’re paying -14.5% interest on a loan.
  • Revise our debt payoff plan. Since Hubby might not be able to re-enlist, we want to have some savings built up for when he gets out, but we also want to have as little debt as possible. We’re going to compromise on this goal by continuing to snowball all our debt that has a higher interest rate than our holiday club savings account (+4%), then making minimum payments on the remaining debts with a lower than 4% interest rate and putting the money we were snowballing into savings. This way, our money will work for us. We will make one extra payment to each debt so we’re one month ahead, which looks better on a credit report. We’ll pay off the truck loan, line of credit, and both credit cards, but keep the student loan and car loan.
  • Review and adjust our retirement account. We have my husband’s TSA divided between C funds, I funds, and S funds. Our goal this month is to review how it’s doing and make adjustments as needed. We’re taking more risk now, and at age 30 we’ll start shifting to a more conservative portfolio.
  • Have two yard sales. I’m aiming to have one on March 1st and one on March 15th, since those are the weekends closest to payday. On base, selling secondhand items depends heavily on payday, because most people live paycheck to paycheck. I’m hoping to make at least $200 at each sale, and rid our house of some items we don’t want to move in the process.
  • Discuss our job options post-military. We’re getting very close to Hubby’s separation date, and we’re a little conflicted as to our future. We’ll sit down and have a good discussion about our options, and hopefully decide on career paths for Hubby and I.
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February Goal Recap

At the start of this month, I wrote a post about our finances and goals, with the aim of keeping our family accountable for paying back our debt. Here’s a look back at how we did:

Goals

  • File our taxes and put the refund towards our highest interest debt.  We filed, and got back around $5730. We put $5000 of that into our highest interest rate debt (the truck payment), and kept $700 as fun money. The extra $30 went into our emergency account, which earns us 4% interest.
  • Come up with a plan for our maturing CD. Our 3% interest CD matures early in March, and we needed a plan for the money. Unfortunately, we were not able to roll it over into another CD to avoid capital gains taxes, so it will be deposited into our savings account. We have decided to take $100 of it to start a new 4% CD, put $1000 towards our debts (highest interest rate first!), and put anything that’s left over into our emergency account at 4% interest.
  • Reduce our debt by either $1000 or $6000. Each month we budget $900 worth of debt reduction income, and my goal this month was to pay off an extra $100 worth of debt, plus our tax refund if it came in on time. In February, we paid off $6,150.66. We blew past our goal by $150.66!
  • Remain in the green this month. We stayed in the green, but ended the month with $0 in our main checking and savings accounts (I do not count our emergency account as a savings account). We would have gone into the red if I had not made an extra $160 towards the end of the month from selling items on Bookoo. If we had any money left in our accounts the day before payday, I would put it towards our highest interest rate debt (even if it was only 50 cents!)

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We completed all our goals this month! I’m proud of us. Hopefully we can do this well next month. One step at a time, that’s all it is!

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Stretching Your Dollar with Coupons

Watching shows like Extreme Couponing gives a lot of people a false picture of couponers. We’re not all crazy, we don’t all have a million rolls of TP and cat food but no cat, and we don’t all walk away with a huge cart full of stuff for nothing at all. I am a conservative couponer, but I manage to save $15-$20 every time I go shopping. Here’s how:

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  1. Subscribe to a paper. I actually subscribe to two- UT San Diego and LA Times. These two get different inserts, so I wind up with 2-4 different coupon inserts every week. You don’t need to get multiple copies of one paper, unless having multiples of coupons makes your skirt fly up, in which case go for it. Subscribing ensures you get a copy each week, instead of going somewhere on Sunday to buy a copy and finding they are sold out.
  2. Consider buying inserts. Some websites sell inserts from areas with a high cost of living. These areas (generally Southern California and New York City) have higher value coupons than more rural areas. I don’t do this because I live in Southern California, so the coupons I get are about as high value as they come.
  3. Clip all the coupons you’ll use. I keep my critera very broad and have no brand loyalty- Instead of saying, “I’ll cut out all Pantene coupons” , I say “I’ll cut out all shampoo coupons”. I generally don’t clip medication coupons, razor coupons (we use One Dollar Shave Club instead), or processed food coupons.
  4. Put them in your coupon binder. I use a three ring binder with baseball card organizers, separated into five categories: food, household (cleaners, laundry soap, dishsoap), pet stuff, baby stuff, and health and beauty. I used to have a cheap coupon organizer from the dollar store, but it took a lot longer to go through my coupons at the store that way. Keep your binder updated- generally, Sunday morning is a good time to clip your coupons and throw out expired ones.
  5. Choose your stores. I shop at four different stores: the Commissary, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Costco.The Commissary takes manufacturer’s coupons, Target will stack manufacturer’s coupons and Target coupons (plus Cartwheel), and Trader Joe’s and Costco don’t take coupons at all. Shopping at four different stores for things allows me to maximize my savings, despite having to drive. We always lump errands, so Costco (which is the farthest away) is not visited nearly as often as the Commissary.
  6. Know what to buy at each store. I buy bread, milk, and some produce at Trader Joe’s. Their bread is delicious, their milk is the cheapest around, and some of their produce is cheap and worth buying. Costco is for spices, yeast, and applesauce. We used to buy yogurt here, but since Little Man developed an allergy to berries, he can only eat 1/3 of the package, so it’s not worth it anymore. I go to Target for things that I have Target coupons for, which is generally shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, diapers, baby wipes, and dish soap. At Target, you can use three discounts on one item: a manufacturer’s coupon, a Target coupon, and Cartwheel. This can lead to big savings. I also do our WIC shopping at Target- I feel like people are judging me less when I use WIC checks there than if I use them at the Commissary or another grocery store. Everything else, I get at the Commissary.
  7. Shop backwards. I always start in the Clearance Corner, or on the outskirts of the store where clearance endcaps are. That way, I can pick up items on my list on clearance instead of having to backtrack to put items back.

I don’t stockpile. I know several girls who do, and if you do, more power to ya. However, as a military wife, I feel that the uncertainty of this lifestyle isn’t conducive to having hundreds of cans and boxes in a closet. Plus, have you seen on base housing? There’s no storage for a stockpile. I keep one extra bottle of toiletries and cleaning supplies on hand, more so I don’t have to go buy dish soap at night because I ran out than anything. There are a few exceptions to this rule- I stockpile Tide, which I use to wash diapers, and if I find a killer deal on something that I have multiple coupons for, I’ll buy as many as I have the coupons for.

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It’s Tax Refund Time!

It’s tax refund time! We’re getting a nice chunk of money back this year thanks to college and our son, combined with being in a very low tax bracket. Total, we got back around $5,730. How did we spend our tax refund?

ford-f150-1We took $5000 and put it towards paying off my husband’s truck.We bought this truck because my mom moved out, taking her truck with her. I wasn’t willing to get up at 4am twice a week to drive Hubby to work just so I could have a life outside of the house, so vehicle #2 entered our life. It’s a four door, which was my only requirement for a second vehicle, and it has a fancy lift kit on the front. Apparently it’s desirable. I just find it makes it harder to get in and out of the car at 5 months pregnant.

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We put $30 into our 4% interest earning savings account. It’s not very much, but we wanted to focus mostly on paying off debt, and I like working with big, round numbers instead of little, fiddly numbers.

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We broke up the remaining $700 into two chunks, so we each got $350 of fun money. On our new debt busting budget, we don’t have extra money for fun activities outside of my coffee date once a week and our dinner out once a week, so we do feel that using part of our tax refund for fun is a good thing. If we got less of a tax refund, we probably wouldn’t do this. I used my chunk to buy these two carriers- the first is a Little Frog Pyrope wrap, which will be my very first wrap. The second is a Toddler Tula in Wave. These two came out to be somewhere around $250 total, which may seem like a lot for those of you who don’t babywear, but it’s worth every penny to me. With these two and our secondhand, much loved Ergo, we should be able to carry both babies at once, either one on each parent or both on one parent. This means A) I don’t have to worry about where Little Man is while I get the baby out of the car/ into the car/ into the shopping cart/ etc, B) That we all get some snuggle time, C) that we don’t need to buy a double stroller, and D) that we don’t need to figure out a way to make said double stroller fit in my little tiny car. We’ll have enough space issues.

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Hubby used his $350 to buy all sorts of accessories for his Traxxas truck, which was his Christmas present. It was expensive, but it gets him out of the house, and he usually takes Philip with him to watch, so I can get WORK DONE for 20 minutes at a time (until the battery dies). I treasure those 20 minutes, and usually use them to drink a hot cup of tea and do some tidying up. It’s amazing. Anyways, at this point he’s replaced almost all the parts with “indestructible” metal parts, so we don’t have to keep putting money into replacing bits that he breaks. I think it’s money well spent.

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Trimming The Fat (From Our Monthly Bills)

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Hubby and I have made a major decision. We’re sick of being in debt. We have about $30,000 in debt right now, and it’s seriously bumming us out. As a means of reducing this debt significantly by  the  end of the year, I recently went through our budget and trimmed the fat. Trips to Dunkin Donuts multiple times a week? Chopped. Extra nice toiletries? Gone. Monthly waxing? Bye bye!

However, I struggled a bit with our “set” expenses. By set expenses, I mean things that are billed monthly. T.V, phone, internet, etc. In the end, though, we reduced our “set” expenses by more than $240 a month! How did we do it? Let’s see!

  • T.V: This one we did a long time ago. When my husband deployed, I canceled our cable service and got a Netflix plan with one D.V.D at a time and unlimited streaming. This saved us $50 a month, and we haven’t missed cable once. I take that back, actually- my husband briefly suggested it might be nice to watch the Olympics, but someone else was quick to point out that even cable customers have to pay extra for that channel. We pared this down further by cutting out the DVD plan for Netflix, and now we pay $8 a month and are quite happy (and saving an extra $8 a month)! Total savings: $58 a month
  • Internet: We have the second tier internet our provider offers. At one point we were paying $65 a month for it, but I called Cox and nicely explained that we were looking into switching companies. I was offered an introductory rate of $35 a month, which was locked in for 2 years! Savings: $30 a month!
  • Citrus Lane: This is by no means a necessary expense, but I like getting mail, Little Man likes getting mail, and it’s a nice little treat for us as we get through our debt. I did go to cancel this, but was offered 3 months at $15/month instead of $21/month, so we’ll keep getting this for now. Savings: $6/ month
  • Cell Phones: This one I’m proud of. Hubby’s phone plan was up in November, but mine wasn’t up until November of this year. We used to have Verizon, and had the cheapest smartphone plan they offered. The cancellation fee was $300 for my line. We switched to Republic Wireless, which costs $19/month for unlimited everything, plus $99 each for the phones. It was cheaper for us to pay the cancellation fee, buy my new phone, and pay for the remaining service I would have had with Verizon than it was for me to keep Verizon. It wasn’t a little price difference either- we’re talking $400 over the course of the year. Shop around for your phone- and keep in mind that a non-traditional plan might be your best choice.
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February Finances and Goals

This is my first finance post, and I’m super excited to start this journey. I’m ready to be out from under this debt, and I’m excited to see our debt reduced.

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February’s pay periods are from Jan 30-Feb 12, and Feb 13-Feb 27. This is our first month of our snowball debt reduction!

Our total income this month (which does not include extra money I make from selling curb finds) is $2,749.

We have these bills (all amounts are rounded up to the nearest dollar):

  • Insurance (This includes both cars and life)                   $178.00
  • Truck Registration                                                           $45.00
  • Internet                                                                             $65.00 (this is a little higher than most months, but we had to get a replacement box)
  • Cell Phones                                                                     $42.00
  • Disneyland Tickets                                                          $99.00
  • Netflix                                                                               $8.00
  • Savings                                                                            $100.00
  • Citrus Lane                                                                      $17.00
  • Haircuts                                                                           $40.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                           $594.00

And these budgets (notice I use very broad categories… more on that later)

  • Gas                                                                                   $300.00
  • Food and Dining                                                               $400.00
  • Miscellaneous (Literally everything else)                          $200.00
  • TOTAL:                                                                             $900.00

We Owe:

  • Credit Card #1                                               $1188.74
  • Credit Card #2                                               $2516.92
  • Car Loan                                                        $10281.11
  • Truck Loan                                                     $6882.45
  • Line of Credit                                                  $466.48
  • Student Loan                                                  $9000.00 (Payments on this don’t start until March)
  • TOTAL:                                                          $30,335.70 (Ouch)

This month, our snowball payment plan looks like this:

  • Credit Card #1                                                $25.00
  • Credit Card #2                                                $44.00
  • Car Loan                                                         $321.66
  • Truck Loan                                                      $459.34
  • Line of Credit                                                   $50.00
  • Student Loan                                                   $0.00 (Like I said, payments on this don’t start until March)
  • Total:                                                               $900.00

The debt with the highest interest, in our case, is our truck loan, at a whopping 14.25% (I’m very embarrassed about that one). Following the interest snowball, we’re flinging all our extra money towards whittling away that debt first. Every other debt is currently getting the minimum payment. Once our truck is paid off, we’ll take all the money we were putting towards paying off the truck and put it towards the next highest interest debt, which is our line of credit.

Goals

  • File our taxes and put the refund towards our highest interest debt. Our taxes are filed, and we’ll be getting back around $5700. We’re planning on keeping the $700 as fun money (we’ll each get $350 to play with), and using the $5000 to pay down our truck loan. This will bring the amount we owe on the truck to less than $1500, and will reduce the amount of time we’ll be paying off our debt by almost 8 months! Woohoo!
  • Come up with a plan for our maturing CD. We have a CD that will be maturing in March, and we need to decide what to do with it. We’re debating between rolling it over into another 1-year CD at 3% interest, investing it in one of the companies we already own stock with, investing it with a company we don’t currently hold any stock with, and using part of it to pay off some of the truck. I think we’ll probably use at least half of it as a principal only truck payment, but what to do with that other half?
  • Reduce our debt by either $1,000 or $6,000. This depends largely on when our refund check comes in. Either way, it’ll also require me to make an extra $100 by selling curb finds, writing articles on Textbroker, and doing odd jobs.
  • Remain in the green this month! One thing I like about Mint is that it tells you if you’re staying within budget each month using colors. Basic, easy peasy colors. If you’re green, you’re good to go! If you’re red, you f$*&ed up somewhere and need to make some extra moolah. My goal is to stay green this month.