Debt Free Scream

I have to pop in here to let you all know how geeky excited I have the chance to yell “We’re Debt Free!” on the Dave Ramsey show this afternoon.

I just did an interview with Jon White on our Debt free story and you can hear that here. And I was also recently featured on Babble with our story to financial freedom.

For more on our story to becoming debt free click here or search “debt free” in my side bar.

Guys!

Jodimichelle

I’m very excited.

{Life List} Becoming debt free

Stick with me here, I’m going to go in about 100 different directions to get this post to make any kind of sense. Don’t you love it when I do that?

Here’s some reference points for you, if you’re new to this conversation, on how I got to where I am today.
Life List
What I’ve said, so far, about becoming debt free – a list of posts I’ve written here to outline our journey, give some tips and hopefully inspire some of you as well.
Most recently, dropped this bomb on a key ingredient to how we’ll be debt free by Christmas.

That feels weird to say out-loud. It involves some continued hard work and probably the sale of our mini van, but we’re 110% committed to this.

We sold our house this past summer and sold it for less than we paid when we bought the home in 2004. We carried over debt from the sale of the home, and dot-to-dot game led us to building a new home, which we are currently in the process of selling (before it’s even finished – this is that aforementioned bomb we dropped) – the sale of the new build isn’t official until mid December some time so we’re sitting tight until them to make any huge proclamations and claim SOLD. We’re being as careful as we can at this point. Nothing is for sure until there are signatures. And the ink is very, very dry. But we’re 98% there.

Since we’ve been saving for a down payment on this new build and our monthly obligation to housing (we’re renting) is less than $500 right now – we’ve been able to knock this one out of the park. The debt that we carried over from the sale of the first house, earlier this year, will vanish mid December. As in ZERO. As in, WOW. As in, Thank you God. As in, We’re more than half way there.

The only other debt we carry is a car payment (hence the probable sale of the van) and taking everything into consideration (and hoping for a sale) we’ll be completely 100% debt free by Christmas. Which means we need to get serious about the van situation.

Now. Here’s what happened today.

I’m clicking around my Google Reader to read through blogs I love and I came across this guest post on The Lettered Cottage.

Insert frantic clicking, sharing and spreading of this link.

You guys … I want that story. I want to be able to feel that freedom. I am in the midst of writing this very story for our lives and I cannot wait to share the day with you when this is a reality and not something I’m reading from someone else’s home.

Food is a huge problem in this house – I try and try and just cannot figure out how to spend less. I menu plan, I coupon clip, I watch the sales, I stock my pantry but I’m missing something. I don’t know what it is yet. I will learn. I’m getting there.

So I plan to buy the ebook (or maybe get it as a Christmas gift?? hint! hint!).

I am on fire.

Other helpful links I came upon:
Rara Bakes and read through the archives of Grocery Shrink to find uber helpful tips and links, recipes and free printables as well.

Other favorites:
Simple Organized Living
Food on the Table Blog

My brain hurts a little bit. Time for a nap.

What do you got, though? Any tips you follow religiously, websites you always walk away from feeling like you gained more the time lost to read it?

Planning: Debt Free

We’re back with some more money talk. Let’s be debt free, friends!

I talk quite a bit about how unorganized I am. How I struggle with the piles of paper and staying on top of menu planning and list making. It’s not a strong point of mine. It’s a weakness I’m very aware of.

Menu Planning

But I also know and understand the power of planning. Having a small note pad with me at all times to keep on task, remember important information or to tell me what’s next … it’s like a brain.

I’m also a very visual person. Reading patterns is for the birds in my opinion. Sticking to a recipe is like following all the rules. I prefer to pretend there are areas in my life where rules just need not apply.

Thinking on paper - Quilt for Jessica

However … money is one of those things I’ve learned over and over and over and over and over and OVER again that not planning it will always result in losing it.

Always.

There’s not a family friendly leash to put on your money to make it stay where you want it. There’s a budget and that is what works.

It’s a good thing I married someone who knows how to handle details.

Aaron working on his presentation

Only – the details of our household? Are left to me. (He pops in for a hello every once in a while and more often lately after starting the FPU class)

So, for the tips:

Obviously here – let’s get on a budget shall we?

It’s not set in stone and both parties involved (if there is more than one party TO involve) should have a say. The best thing about a budget is that you’re in charge. You get to change it if needed. You get to say where extra’s go, where less than extra needs to come from. You’re on top of it.

It takes a couple months to really figure it out and make sure that you’re allotting enough money in your needed categories. We’re learning that we just need to add a little more into our food budget. I’m actually embarrassed about that because I want so badly to be able to live on less where food comes into play – but trying to wear a size 3 shoe on a size 8 foot is just painful. So this month, we’re adjusting and we’ll see how we come out on the other side.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Patience? Who me? Just because you don’t have hundreds of dollars to set aside each month for saving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be saving SOMETHING. $10 a month grows slowly … but all of a sudden you look and there’s $2,000 there that wasn’t before. It’s powerful.

Maybe I’m just in the the middle of learning this lesson and it’s just starting to take hold … but there’s something to be said about the way my grandparents lived. Literally picking up pennies from the sidewalk to take into the bank to pay down their mortgage. That’s powerful.

Every penny, literally, counts.

Closet

Cure what ails you.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a shopper. I love to bargain hunt and I’m a deal finder – yes. That’s a hobby. But shopping for clothes? Shoes? Not interested.

That didn’t happen over night and I wasn’t always like this – but here’s how it happened for me. When I was 18 I had a breast reduction, before that clothes weren’t appealing to me. They didn’t fit my body well, my body didn’t fit me well – so I stayed away. After the reduction? All of a sudden I could buy tshirts in the junior section of the stores and I was ALIVE! I owned cute underclothing for the first time in my entire life. No more “minimizers”. I was working full time so I could afford to buy myself clothes when I wanted – but back then?

I was making small amounts of money and then very large amounts of money – it wasn’t consistent. I was on a budget at 16 and I really liked the percentage break down. I saved 30% of everything I brought in. I didn’t touch it. The rest? I gathered and divided so I could pay for gas, car insurance and my phone and tithe. Then there were left overs. I could spend that if I wanted but it was really hard to part with it because I knew how hard I worked to get it.

So I didn’t buy too often. The feet and shoes? I have freakishly small feet and it’s just not fun to shop for shoes. They rarely fit my foot. So I don’t even look.

From there it just turned into the way I lived. Now I have kids to shop for and it’s so much easier to buy them an outfit than spend money on myself. I rarely have child free shopping experiences so I just don’t have time to fit items on and preview a look or style.

I think this is hard for a lot of women – the shopping. After I became a stay-at-home mom I had a REALLY hard time not spending money every single day. I lived at Target for a few months. I had a very good baby who slept wonderfully and I was bored out of my mind. So I shopped. Alot.

We froze my debit card in a block of ice in the freezer. True Story.

You just have to do what’s right for you in this situation and you need to be honest about it with an accountable party.

That’s what I’m thinking about today. Next up? How to hunt for bargains, how to score great deals.

{Life List} Live Mortgage Free

My brain just hurts. We finally made it. We are mortgage free 6 months after selling our house and all we had to do was build another house, sell that one and spend our savings for a down payment on the leftovers of the mortgage of the first house instead of moving into a new house, which we sold.

Don’t worry, I’m confused too. Not really. Aaron and I knew exactly what we were doing the entire time, explaining it is just tough.

When I wrote my Life List I was pretty vague. I mean living mortgage and debt free are biggies but what does that really mean? We never have a mortgage again? ZOMG that would be awesome. We won’t be debt free by Christmas though, we decided to keep the van and just pay it off – which would take a miracle for that to happen in less than 10 days.

I’m exhausted. All this mental and emotional energy is draining and now our goal is to Dave Ramsey our way to a fully funded emergency fund, travel a bit and I don’t think I want to live in a house ever again. Renting an apartment – love it. This is fine, but if we buy another dwelling it’s going to be different. I like tree houses. I’m definitely ok with living in a barn. Turn an old factory into a house?? Why yes, yes that would be wonderful. Buy another house in another neighborhood and you can catch me gagging just a little bit.

No one knows where we’ll be in a year or two – we could very well be ready to lay our savings down for a house or we might take to the Sea for a year and go whale watching instead of reading bedtime stories. Folks, our life just blew wide open and I’m standing on this proverbial cliff just watching Opportunity and Dreams call out, waiting to catch us when we jump.

What’s the term? Free falling? Yes. That.

Getting out of debt: Tips

Hey hey! We’re back. I’ve got some more tips I came across and things we’re trying … so hang on to your seat. This is a ride of your life.

Some basics

Please get a will. Especially if you’re married, even more so if you have children. We finally did this about a year ago and I can highly recommend the lawyer we used from the Law Offices of Georgette Miller & Associates which are experts at this. This actually costs money, we went with a trust situation not just a will and the total bill, back when we did it, was just over $800. Which – I know. Is a lot of money for some paper work, but it will save so much money in the long run to have really hard questions already answered in writing for when we’re not here to give the answers ourselves.**

Buy Life Insurance. This goes with the the will, Dave Ramsey has a lot to say about this one and I think he recommends Term Life Insurance only. So find a reputable insurance agent you trust and buy 10 times your annual gross income as your life insurance policy. A stay at home mom? Should probably buy what it would cost her spouse or a family member to care for her children (child care, food) for 5 years. About 250,000 in life insurance is a good place to start for a stay at home parent.**

Jessica putting money into piggy bank

Craigslist! Get to know your classifieds. Sell stuff. People will buy it. If they don’t? Donate them for the tax deduction. But most of the time, people WILL buy it. I like to go through my cupboards every couple months and get rid of the items I’m just not using. Now that we have a storage unit I’m itching a little bit thinking of all that stuff just sitting there – waiting for an exchange of ownership and some cash.

Bring a shopping list. Oy Vey. This is a hard one, but it works. Putting the time into your shopping trip to plan it out well will not only save you time in the store but atleast 20% of your bill at then end of your shopping spree trip. Especially if walking in to the store makes you feel like a kid in the candy store.

Peanut Store

Or just don’t go shopping. This one isn’t hard for me as I’ve some how developed an aversion to shopping of any kind. Last night was a good example – I had a 10$ gift card to World Market that expired today and I had to talk myself into getting in the car to go and get something for free. I didn’t pay a thing, I just walked in and picked out a pan I had been looking at earlier. But I was plagued with the idea that maybe I could use that $10 in a better way? Like buying something that would get my dollar further, coffee? Because they have a coffee club, and we drink coffee. Maybe some grocery type thing? Or put it towards the new plates we want? It was awful. Shopping for something for free should be fun, but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the useful and very functional items I already had at home and in storage. I just don’t NEED anything else. So yes, this saves a lot of money. Being a hermit.

Borrow, Host and Swap!

Host your friends instead of going out for an expensive evening. Some times the most expensive things are the things we DO. Entertainment. Experiences. I am all for this, I love experiences. But conversations are a ton of fun, too. You can even have everyone bring a dish or bottle of wine and cut down on food costs. Or just have friends over for card games. I like a life where friends are frequent.

Cocktail Hour

Borrow. A dress for a wedding? A purse for an evening on the town? Shoes from your BFF who knows what’s what about style. A super cute coat for those fall photos? A dish for a party … The ideas here are endless. In the photo below is my mother’s cake stand. I LOVE this thing and get compliments on it whenever I borrow it for a party or event, who knew they were really complimenting my mother or my awesome resourcefulness šŸ™‚

Cocktail Hour

Swap. Swap clothes, for kids or yourself. Swap toys, swap babysitting, swap coupons and ideas. SWAP. Your friends are amazing resources for sharing and caring. If you have friends with similar aged children – offer to babysit for them for 2 hours a month if they’ll do the same in return. Get a date night (even stay in?) and have a couple hours to actually look at your spouse in the eye. Swap recipes, swap spices (they’re spendy) swap car pools or errands. Swap meals? You have a super busy night twice a month that is the opposite night of your best friend’s family?? Ask if they wouldn’t mind swapping dinners those nights. You make an extra casserole for me twice a month and I’ll make one for you on your scheduling nightmares, twice a month. (Saves the dash through drive through meals and extra fries, not to mention the budget buster of fast food.) Also? Swap for services. You know a computer guy and need something fixed? I bet he doesn’t know that you’re a wicked good pie maker, sewer, piano teacher or that you know how to get him those sports tickets he’s been talking about? Maybe he’ll have time to stop by and take a look at your printer tonight?

Last but not least for this installment … Garden! Garden for flowers, herbs and veggies. Buy an apple tree or two, get some berry bushes. If all you can do is Basil, then do it. But Garden. GARDEN GARDEN GARDEN. Not only are you then in control of how your produce is brought to the table, you will also have ample left over to swap or sell or even can.

Oh I love saving money and swapping ideas with you guys. I’m not a huge couponer even! But small changes make a big impact. What are you guys doing differently this week?

produce loot

**I am not a financial advisor even though I some times like to pretend to be one. No really, consult with your own professionals before taking some lady on the internet’s advice. Everyone’s situation is different.

For more on my fascination with getting out debt check out more posts here and here.