So, remember my post about how I'd been feeling really anxious about something...and I thought it had to do with my house? I think that was only part of it. I think the other part of it was that it was time for us to start thinking more about getting out of debt. It started when I got a credit card offer in the mail from Chase. I usually just throw them away, cuz let's face it, the last thing we need is another credit card! But I think I was inspired to open this one up. It offered 0% financing on balance transfers through May 2013. Let me back up a few years. In 2006, we had just bought our house, and we did something stupid. We let the dumb salesman in the door. He sold us a water softener. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It's been 6 years now and I still want to punch myself for letting that man in the door. You know how "they" say that it is hardest to forgive yourself? It's true. Anyway, we put the balance on a credit card. Not long after that, the economy started to take a nosedive. Times got tough. We started using the credit card for things like groceries and other "necessities". At the time, we really thought we didn't have a choice. Long story short, here we are six years later and with more debt than we'd like to have looming above our heads. We made the commitment about 2 years ago to stop using the card. And I'm proud to say we've stuck to our guns! However, interest charges have made it very difficult to pay the balance down.
I was not going to post exact amounts here, but you know what..I think I will. I think I need to get it off my chest, put it out there as part of the healing/forgiving myself process. It's embarrassing and I'm ashamed, but I want to use this as a way to track our progress and maybe have some cheerleaders along the way...please be gentle with me. :-) On February 28, 2012, I transfered $13,160.00 to the Chase 0% interest card. It was my goal to have the balance paid off by May 2013. 15 months. That was going to be really pushing it on our current budget. I talked to Eric and we agreed that we would really place our focus on the debt. Other "wants" would just have to wait. Tax returns would go straight to the balance. Eric's end of year bonus would go straight to the balance. Anything extra we might get...straight to the balance. It is amazing what that kind of resolve can do to change your perspective on things. Identifying wants vs. needs. Planning the grocery list based more on survival than what looks the most delicious. *I love to try new recipes and make delicious food...but we agreed that we'd put that on hold and keep it simple. My first trip to the grocery store after we made this decision, I spent $20 less than my average. The 2nd trip to the grocery store...I spent $60 less than my average!!! I canceled our Costco membership a couple years ago - I guess partially blaming Costco for some of the debt (obviously not Costco's fault, but you know...) I've realized that now that our family has grown quite a bit since then, that bulk shopping will actually benefit us now...so I'm going to get a Sam's Club membership to help us save even more on groceries. $40 for a membership will be so worth it in the amount I will save buying pull-ups and snacks there rather than Winco.
Okay, so another little side note. It's gonna get a little spiritual up in here. Not one week after we made our decision to put everything we have towards the debt, Eric's boss called him into his office. He said, "Eric, I want to give you a raise." I think, if I'm doing my math right, it turned out to be about an 11% raise. Our first thought was, "Think what that will do to help us make our payments!!" And then it struck me that this was a blessing straight from Heaven. It is my belief, and I know it now more than ever, that Heavenly Father knows each one of us individually. He knows our struggles, He knows our strengths, and most importantly, He knows our hearts. I believe that He knows how badly we want this to happen, and He paved the way for us through this raise. I am so grateful for my faith, and for my amazing blessings! (Oh and hooray for my husband working super hard and earning the raise!!!)
So with the raise, I have sorta' changed our goal...I want the debt gone by January 1, 2013. 9 months from yesterday. Here's the kicker...I really think we can do it!!!
Moving on, here are some things we've done or are doing to save money:
- After we got the credit card, we received an offer in the mail from Chase, that if we opened a Chase checking account, they would give us $150. Sold. $150 more to put towards the balance!
- We will be taking the difference in pay from the raise and having it directly deposited into the Chase checking account. That way we won't see it - we will continue to live off the budget we've had, and imagine that money does not exist. All of it will go towards the balance.
- I read on our power company's website that you could earn a 20% credit on your bill if you save "x" amount of energy through the winter. I lowered our thermostat and just got an e-mail letting me know I earned the credit! Seems small, but every little bit helps!
- I will not be cutting my hair again until we are out of debt! I'm in desperate need of a haircut, but I'm sacrificing!!! So if I look like a ragamuffin for the next 9 months, you know why! ;-)
- Plan simple menus ahead of time, shop only for the items needed and refrain from grabbing extras. It is amazing what this has done for me!
- Every time I think about buying something that is not a necessity, I write down the cost of the item, and I refrain from purchasing! It is interesting to see how the dollar here and dollar there add up to something pretty significant.
- I've sorta' made a game of it...see where I can save next...my whole attitude about money has shifted...it is invigorating!!!
- We canceled our home phone - we're paying enough for our cell phones...no use having two different phones!
- We haven't paid for TV in years. We had Dish for a while, several years ago, but have not had it for quite some time. We pay $7 something for Netflix and nothing else. Sooo worth the savings!
- We pay our tithing to the church. 10% of everything we earn goes to the church. I know we are majorly blessed for this.
- I'm keeping a 2013 Debt Free Bucket List...I'm writing down all the things I want to do or buy when we are debt free. It gives me something to work towards, something to hope for. It will be so worth it to wait for these things. And some of the items are so simple, it seems silly, but it will be so much sweeter after our hard work.
- I buy my shampoo at the Dollar Tree. Yup. There, I said it. VO5 happens to be one of my favorites. Is it the best shampoo? No. Does it clean my hair? Yup.
- I'm selling cinnamon rolls for next Conference...locals let me know if you're interested!
February 28, 2012: Balance $13,160.00
April 2, 2012: Balance $10,026.00
We just got our tax refund so that took out a very large chunk! This is very very exciting for me!!!