Saturday, December 1, 2007

Looking for Work

Lately I've been looking on the internet for a new job. I've been successfully self employed for 13 years up until I suffered the loss of my retail store in 2004. I've spent the last 3 years working with the insurance company and lawyers, and working on two outstanding Interior Design projects. I've recently completed a commercial project and am now wrapping up my last large residential project.

Rather than start all over, get out and network, take on lots of small projects to rebuild a business, I think I'd prefer to go to work for someone else.

I know that I am a really good designer, I know that I'm a good mentor for other designers, I work really well with clients and have a strong business background. Yet, while I'm searching the classifieds, I feel inadequate, out of date, and insignificant.

I find myself applying for work that I'm overqualified for and, although I'm applying, feeling intimidated by the positions that I'm interested in. I recognize that my computer skills are out of date, and that there are many new computer programs that Interior Designers are using that I'm not familiar with. I recognize that employers are wanting experience in Auto Cad, and my only experience is self taught. I know enough CAD to put together my clients drawings, and do presentations, but am not familiar with the complete program as it could be used.

Additionally, I lost my portfolio in the store flood and didn't bother to replace it. I would need to return to clients that I haven't worked with in years to get some photographs. I stopped taking on new clients after the flood, primarily because I was overwhelmed by the incredible amounts of information required by the insurance company, having to relocate and downsize my company, and, by the fact that I was anemic and unable to perform my job at full capacity.

Anyway, it feels depressing and discouraged. I don't know whether I should start my business all over again, or seek employment that I don't feel equipped to do, or secure employment that I'm overqualified for. I'm very uncomfortable being in a position of not knowing what to do next. I'm certainly an action oriented person, but, when I don't know what action to take I feel stuck.

In the meantime, I've updated my resume and am submitting it those companies I feel intimidated by. I've also updated my business cards and will purchase the products I'm needing to have them printed. And, since some action is better than no action, I will begin by handing a stack of my cards to each of the clients that I am in the process of completing, letting them know that I am looking for new clients. Finally, I am going to act as if I am rebuilding my business and if God sees otherwise for me, I will be happy to take whatever path he shows me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Whirlwind of Activity



Its been three weeks now since my husband and I signed on with a realtor to either sell or lease our home. Fortunately, we were able to find a tenant within ten days and they were prepared to move in by the first of December. This gave us two weeks to pack, reduce our belongings from 4,000 square feet to 1,000, move, and prepare the house for rental.

We've began packing our bags, scheduled an estate sale, and moved into our (much!) smaller home. We scheduled inspections with the city, contacted an organization to remove most of the items which didn't sell at our estate sale, packed items we decided to keep after they didn't sell at the estate sale, and moved them into our (much!) smaller home.

We had decided that if the living room furnishings didn't sell we would keep it and put it in our new home. Its larger scale than I prefer, but, it saves us the cost of buying new. Even as I write this last statement, I realize how absurd that can sound. I'm a designer, and, thus, an absolute perfectionist about my home, its layout, color, proportions, etc. This furniture is extremely high end, and, I would not be able to purchase anything even remotely as nice (see photo). Anyway, the living room furniture didn't sell, so, I hired two men and a truck to help us move it.

Finally, the inspector didn't show up for his meeting on Wednesday, but showed up Thursday afternoon, creating a lot of drama and stress for today. He determined that all of the gfi's need to be replaced, and all of the outlets need to be changed over to 2 wire because we don't have a ground wire for the 3 prong. That's 44 outlets needing to be changed over! Additionally, we don't have a ground for the gfi in the master bathroom and will need to remove some tiles in order to tie it in with the cold water pipe. This project requires an electrical permit to be pulled and everything replaced - by today! We called our electrician and he immediately came over to help, he pulled the permit this morning and the inspector agreed to come back by the end of today and approve the electrical work if it was done. Hopefully, and incredibly, it appears that we are going to be able to make the deadline in order for the tenants to move in tomorrow morning. Whew!

While my husband oversees the remaining cleaning, painting, and electrical work today, I am at our new home unpacking, organizing, and locating furniture.

This past week our unexpected expenses included auto repairs of $500, electrical work of $500 plus, furnace repairs of $700 plus, and moving company expenses of $350. Amazingly we had this money available due to the estate sale!

As I sit here writing this post I wonder if others can see how quickly God helped us to (literally) move in our lives. When we became entirely ready to whatever it took to help us get out of debt, and took the first step, God supported our decision. One month ago neither my husband nor I had any intention of moving to our condo, yet, the moment we became ready to take action, and opened our minds to the changes we were shown to take, God immediately supported us in our decision and made sure that we had everything available to make the changes, and meet the demands that came up along the way. Thank you God!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting Settled

My husband and I are still in the process of moving our things to our condo. We began sleeping at our condo on Wednesday evening and have been unpacking boxes daily.

We held the estate sale this weekend, Saturday and Sunday and were able to sell most of the large furnishings and a lot of the smaller miscellaneous items. The sale grossed $8500. After paying the estate company we made $5300.

Earlier this week a client of mine decided to purchase a piece of artwork for $5600. I don't want to get my hopes up too high though until I see the check.

Additionally my husband has been booked to do a lot more performances than he would normally do, so he is bringing in additional acting income.

It seems like all avenues have been opened up for our prosperity. Our plan is to get ourselves financially prepared for me to have my surgery and take six to eight weeks off of work, and to reduce our debts.

Our move won't be complete until the end of this week when we've moved the remaining furnishings out of of home, donated the smaller items still in the house, prepared the home for the renters, and moved a few pieces of furniture to our new condo.

Our renters are moving in this coming Saturday. Fortunately, they attended the estate sale and purchased our bedroom furniture, office furniture and one of our twin beds. In other words, these items won't need to be moved.

I'm really looking forward for things to start calming down a bit and getting settled into our new home, and beginning to collect rent to help us reduce our bills.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ch. . .ch.... ch. . . ch. . . Changes!


Wow, there are a lot of things happening for us right now. . . . .

1. We've scheduled an Estate Sale for this coming weekend and what an incredible amount of work this requires. I realize that the company I hired is supposed to take care of everything, but, we still have to go through everything to make sure we want to sell it. There are several thing that we had overlooked thinking that we had searched through everything. Yesterday the people were here to begin setup of the sale, while they were unpacking they pulled out boxes and boxes of basketball cards that my kids have saved from when they were little. My husband and I went online to see what a couple of them were worth we came across one that was valued at $300! The problem is that there are thousands of these cards and they aren't priced, they aren't our cards to sell, and neither of my kids has the ability to research prices right now. We've decided to just pack them back up and take them to someone we know who deals in cards to see what their value is.

2. We're still packing to move down to our condo downtown. This has been fairly difficult only because both my husband and I are sick right now. Packing is not my favorite thing to do, I have a tendency to under pack and my husband over packs. Hopefully we'll be able to balance this out. I've recently learned that the small storage unit we have at the condo is not accessible right now due to asbestos in the area of the unit.

3. We've found a renter for our home and will be meeting with the realtor this evening to review the contract. This has been incredibly fast, yet, we had three families a day coming through our home to look at it. This renter will be moving in on the first of December so we need to make sure the house is in top shape for that to happen.

4. Our furnace needs to be repaired. We knew this was coming, but, my husband and I have been tolerating the furnace problems. Today they came out and quoted a minimum of $500+ to replace a few parts and bleed the lines. I'm crossing my fingers on this project because I know it could go into a lot more expenses than what is being quoted. We'll have to wait and see. Thank goodness we have that $1000 emergency fund though.

5. We'll be having Thanksgiving at our new home. I hadn't been planning on it until one of my sisters called to find out where we were meeting. I'm aware she has nowhere to go so I invited her to join us for dinner. After inviting her though I realized I needed to invite my other sisters also. It ends up that we'll be having two of my sisters, my brother in law, one of my sons, and possibly my granddaughter for dinner. I only have place settings for 4 at the condo so we'll be using paper plates (at least my husband and I will), and some plastic silverware. Fortunately we do have enough seating for everyone and we have an amazing view to look out at while we eat. (Photo on post is the view from our front window)

Both my husband and I are starting to get a bit excited about moving, and we're very tired at the same time. Of course there remains to be a lot of things to do, not just in the packing, but in the unpacking and furnishing of the condo. Our furniture from the large house doesn't translate into this smaller space and we're short one bed, some living room furnishings, and an area rug on a concrete floor. Additionally, there's a bit of construction work remaining to be done and we'll need to put up some window treatments for the neighbors across the way.

I'm most especially looking forward to reducing our monthly overhead expenses! Fortunately the cost for heat is included in our association fees and we are only responsible for our electrical expenses.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Packing Our Bags

Last week my husband and I met with a realtor, again, and signed a contract to put our home on the market for lease with option. He looked at both of our homes, let us know which he felt he could rent the soonest, and gave us rental prices for both homes.

If I haven't mentioned it before, our largest home has been on and off the market for the past three years. Our price went from $390,000 down to $330,000 with no offers. Recently, we were told our home would sell for approximately $260,000. Unfortunately our mortgage is for $318,000 and we're not in a financial position to take any losses, let alone that size of a loss.

Our second home is an 1100 square foot loft on the river in Downtown Detroit. It is in a high rise building with valet and amazing water views all around. I've wanted to move down there, but, we were thinking we would rent it on an executive rental program. The condo is already partially furnished, has all the needs for kitchen and bath, and is only in need of a few pieces of furniture.

I've been packing what we plan to take with us and my husband's been cleaning the home top to bottom. Tomorrow we have 2 couples scheduled to view our home at the rental price of $1595 per month, $100 of which would go to our rental company for management fees. Our current payment with taxes and insurance is $3000.

With the renting out of our home we will not only have an additional $1495 coming in monthly, but, we'll be eliminating our monthly utilities. In the winter, these utilities can total up to $500 - $700.

We will be responsible for any maintenance situations that come up, and, I already know they will be coming up. There are also some repairs that will need to be taken care of right away, our furnace isn't working on the upper level, some areas of the house need repainting, window repairs, etc.

We'll be moving from approximately 3000 square feet down to 1100 square feet so we need to get rid of a lot of things. I've scheduled a meeting with an estate sale company to see about selling all of our furnishings, kitchen items, linens, toys, etc. Hopefully, they will be interested and available to make something happen quickly.

Whoops, spoke too soon when I said quickly! I met with the Estate Sale company and they're going to hold the sale November 24th and 25th! They'll be coming over on Monday morning to begin setting up the sale. I'll be spending the weekend packing those items I plan on taking to my loft.

I've called my kids to see if they're wanting anything before I sell it all. They'll be coming over tomorrow evening to celebrate my husband's birthday and hopefully take whatever they are wanting.

I've delayed my surgery that was originally scheduled for November 21st, primarily because I wouldn't be able to pay my house payments if I was off work. I haven't set aside enough money to be able to take off six to eight weeks to recuperate, and I don't want to feel afraid while I'm trying to recover.

I feel certain that with all the changes my husband and I have been making that we are well on our way to becoming debt free. I'm in a place where I feel willing to do whatever it takes to pay off all this debt.

While all this is going on, I've decided to return to my doctor and ask for help (again) with my eating disorder. I struggle with my eating constantly. I'm neither anorexic or bulimic, but I do have a problem that I need to deal with. I've committed to my doctor that I would attend Overeaters Anonymous (again) and make additional efforts to deal with this problem.

Does it sound like I'm taking on too much? It does to me, but, I'm not doing anything that doesn't need to be done. I need money and I need to take better care of myself.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

FINANCIAL MEETING #5


What a nightmare! I really recognized why my husband and I haven't sat down and done our expenses together in the past.

Yesterday, my husband had a really rough day at work. His job is overly stressful due to a politically appointed boss (that changes with each election), who has no experience. Political appointees are oftentimes someone who has held fund raisers, or knows someone who knows someone, etc. They aren't required to have qualifications for the jobs they are appointed to, but instead are pretty much thrust into a position and they either take an active role or a passive role in their position.

Currently, his boss is taking not only an active roll, but an abusive roll. She's pretty well destroyed the department by abusing those who knew how to run the department until they couldn't tolerate it any longer. Many accepted much less paying positions just to get away.

Unfortunately, my husband has not been able to get out of the job, after 20 some years, and has reported some of her abuses to the human resource department in order to protect himself. Worse, by his reporting the problem it has created an even more hostile environment.

Anyway, having come home in that frame of mind, we had our scheduled financial meeting. Certainly, this was a mistake. It seemed as though all the abuses that were heaped on him that day were now being brought to the financial table.

While I have fear about money, my husband has hatred and rage about money. There is so much anger coming from him about money, that, in the past, I had chosen not to confide in him and had just taken over the bill paying. Bill paying was all that was happening in our household though. Nobody was paying attention to what was coming in, what was going out, what was being saved, or what was being spent.

I find it very difficult to be in the same room with him when this rage comes out. Its not rage at me, its rage towards money. Yet, I don't know how to stay present around it. (Actually, after re-reading this last statement, I shouldn't stay present around it! I need to set a boundary and walk out of the meeting if it gets that heated. That much anger, to me, belongs in a therapists office.)

When the subject of Christmas came up, and it only came up because it was on the agenda, my husband seemed to completely fall to pieces. He informed me that he felt like we were letting his daughter down financially, that he wanted to be able to give the kids whatever they wanted - like we have in the past, etc.

The dynamics of our relationship seems to be that when my husband gets weepy or (what I call) overly emotional/dramatic), I get angry. When I get weepy he gets weepier . . . . then I get angry. Its not a pretty picture.

Needless to say, this meeting resulted in a melt down by each of us. By the end of the meeting both of us had been crying, myself because I was so frustrated, my husband- for many reasons.

Later, when both my husband and I were calmed down and the financial meeting had ended, I asked him why he believed he had so much anger towards money. He indicated that money was used as a tool/weapon against him in his family and later in his relationships. I have never seen anyone have such a strong, hateful reaction towards money.

I on the other hand, have very few memories about money. Money wasn't really discussed in my family, it was a bit of a secret. I knew we didn't have any, we didn't have enough for our basic needs, but, we did have two large homes.

I'm not sure how we're going to go forward from here. I don't ever want to have to go through what I went through at last nights meeting. We did discuss the inappropriate way the meeting went, and, that neither of us should be coming to the tables loaded up with that much emotional baggage.

Additionally, I have had to be responsible for finances my entire adult life, my husband, on the other hand, has never had to be responsible. He has always had someone else take care of his finances. He is actually coming to the table with, by his own admission, very little financial experience, and making some fairly awful financial recommendations.

You know, if it had to sum this up right now, I'd have to say that my husband is a bit of a spoiled brat and he's having a loud, and obnoxious, childish temper tantrum, that, while he claims he'd like me to take him seriously, cannot be taken seriously.

Well, even though I didn't have anything nice to say, I feel better for having said it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Making Money On Line


I'm always searching for a way to make money online.

I've signed up to take surveys at cashcrate.com , which wouldn't be a problem, except, you can't get out of the surveys! What prompted me to sign up was when a fellow blogger had listed his income for the month as $63. I now realize he had to have been on line for many, many hours to get his account that high.

I'm currently checking on an old website I had purchased which appears to still be in my account at Network Solutions. I'd like to get the website going and begin selling products that I've made for children. I'll let you know how that's working out.

Finally, I recently came across a website that was recommended to me by someone I trust. Also, just last night, I was reading about the law of attraction, and I was shown this site this morning. Whenever I pray and then see a possible answer to that prayer I gratefully respond.

So, if you're interested in making an income on line, just listen to a short tape, sign up for free, and pass it on. http://www.mypowermall.com/Biz/Home/73621

Sunday, November 4, 2007

SEARCHING FOR THE GOOD


My father used to tell me, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." so, I haven't written lately.

After my fourth financial meeting with my husband, I was feeling pretty worn out. I see my finances and I can't believe I've managed to get myself into this mess. I currently have $74,000 in credit card, student loans, and construction loans and another $460,000 in mortgage debt. So, the good news is that my husband read Dave Ramsey's, "Total Money Makeover" and has agreed to come on board with me. Additionally I have seen my husband make a complete turn around in his financial thought process and I believe because of this we are now in a position to overcome our debts.

I'm concerned because my business has dropped off more than 90%, and I have health problems that cause me to be fatigued and unable to work at my normal capacity. Right now I'm scheduled for surgery November 22nd, but may have to delay it because I don't have enough money set aside to pay my mortgages. I also may be forced to delay it because my iron levels are too low for surgery. The surgery requires that I take six to eight weeks off of work. So, the good news is that I can see the problem, have the awareness that I need to build my emergency fund right now.

I had planned on going to grad school and realize that financially I'm not in a position to. The tuition is $7,000 per semester and I, of course, was planning to pay for this with student loans. So. the good news is I'm not creating $14,000 of additional debt this year.

I'm needing a new action plan and I'm not sure which way to go. I feel in a bit of a catch 22 because I don't want to build a business, one, that I don't really like anymore, and, two, when I'm too ill to follow through. So, the good news is I'm taking a bit of a siesta, praying and waiting for God to show me the way.

I've been listing items for sale on craigslist, attempting to sell some of my art collection, and communicating with a furniture store to purchase lighting fixtures. So the good news is, I have valuable things to sell.

I did sell a set of tires my son had left in my garage and I split the money with him, the artwork is in limbo and, actually, so are the light fixtures. The furniture store owner indicated he wanted them and then hasn't done anything to follow up. Well, the good news is, I still have the fixtures and if the original person who said he wants them doesn't want them any longer - I'll sell them to someone else.

I've contacted a rental company to have him look at both of our homes. Both would rent WAY under the amount that we currently pay for them. The good news is, both houses are beautiful, I can schedule a photographer to take pictures, and can submit those pictures to national magazines for consideration.

This month I have very little receivables out there and am again afraid I won't be able to pay this months bills. My clients are cutting back on purchases and its been affecting my income greatly. Oh well, I didn't mention that last month my income was $7500. Who knows what it will be this month. Hmmm, the good news could be that all income is a bit of a surprise and I am EXTREMELY grateful each time it comes in.

I do have debt through my business that I must pay off, while at the same time paying myself a salary. I can no longer ignore my business though and use the money from it to just pay my bills. I need to pay my clients bills first, since it is their money for their product. So, the good news here is that I WILL be out of debt at my office since I'm putting a portion of all my business income towards past debt. The even better news is that I do not have a lot of past due debts at my office and the debts that I do have have varying due dates, ie. deposit first - four months later the balance is due. I can get the orders going, since my clients already paid me, and prepare to pay off the balances.

Finally, I live on a 1/2 acre of land, in Michigan, and there are loads of leaves that need to be raked up and taken to the roadside. I let the lawn service go to save money. So, the good news is, I have a heck of a workout ahead of me. :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

FRUGAL GROCERY SHOPPING


I had an interesting experience at the grocery store yesterday. I took $194 cash with me to shop, and, even though I didn't count as I went along, I was becoming concerned that I was exceeding that amount. I wasn't too worried because I had my debit card with me, but, my husband and I are successfully trying to use a cash only system.

One thing I've been doing different when I grocery shop is to make sure I am not purchasing any convenience items. Carrots that have been peeled, lettuce that's been washed and cut up, beans that have been cooked, chicken stock that's been made for me, butter that's been whipped, etc. Another thing that I've been doing is to purchase meats and fish only if they are on sale. Fortunately, Meijers had whole chickens for .79 per pound. I purchased six of them, only because that's all the will fit in my freezer.

Although its mostly just my husband and I, my husband is a H-U-G-E eater. He eats enough for a family of four or more easily. When he eats, he stands over the sink and devours an entire chicken. Then he moves on to the next item and devours it, etc.

Two weeks ago I purchased six pounds of mixed nuts for $24. That's only $4 a pound! A great deal. Today there pretty well gone. Well, that's not such a great deal any longer. In fact, that's quite expensive. Twelve dollars a week just for nuts is no longer a bargain.

Knowing about my husbands tendency to binge on certain foods, I seek out cheaper and cheaper prices in those areas where he's tearing through the pantry. Yesterday, I found ballpark peanuts on sale for .99 per pound. Of course, I stocked up on them. My other trick is to buy nuts that my husband doesn't really like, like walnuts. Since he eats nuts everyday on the advise of a medical program, (he's supposed to be eating 3/4th cup a day), if there aren't nuts in the house than he thinks he's not on "the program".

Finally, I've started really stretching the foods. Rather than even having a whole chicken around for him to eat, I've been making meals where I break up the chicken and mix it with other items that will fill him up. Spaghetti sauce with chicken over brown rice, chicken soup with vegetable and rice, tonight there's chili, etc. The rice is made in a $8.00 rice cooker I bought recently, and I make 6 cups every 3 days. Two pounds of rice costs $1.25 and lasts for a couple of weeks.

I've been purchasing ground turkey when it's on sale and making large batches of spaghetti , last night I bought some kielbasa and steak that I'll figure into some sort of mixed dish rather than a single serving of the meat. This allows me to have more more than one serving of that meat, and sometimes up to three. Ie. spaghetti with rice for dinner for both of us , the next days lunch for my husband , and one more meal for both of us.

This is something that I used to do when my children were little and I didn't have a lot of money. I stretched everything! Fortunately, I have the knowledge and skills to do this.

It actually doesn't take that much more time to do this. I usually spend half a day on the weekends cooking, making large salads, peeling a large bowl of carrots, cutting up a large bowl of celery for the week. I cook more than one kind of soup at a time, or spaghetti and soup, I have more than one burner going. I make enough to freeze two or three large servings of each.

One challenge I'm having right now is that I don't have an oven. Its been broken since the summer. We've been cooking on the grill outdoors and I've been using the cooktop. Well, its getting a bit cold here in Michigan so I need to solve the problem.

In order to solve the problem I went on line to see if there were instructions on how to repair a fairly new GE Monogram Oven. There is. I've followed the beginnings of the instructions and need to continue on to the next step. They recommend putting a piece of paper on the connector, which I did, then if that doesn't work I'm to take off one of the parts and see what happens. I've never done this before, but, I feel its worth the money savings to attempt to do this myself. I'm not going to let myself be intimidated.

Finally, when I got to the checkout counter at Meijers, my cart was filled to the top. I was pretty certain I had gone over the $194 - or thought I was very close. The cashier rang up all the items, packaged the cart with about 30 bags, and my total was $124! I was pleasantly surprised, the cashier was shocked though and commented on how a basket that size would cost her more than a couple hundred dollars.

She let me know she had a family of 5 and 3 grandchildren living in her home. I passed on my secret of no convenience foods and felt great that my frugality may help another.

Prior to my starting this program of debt reduction and frugality, my grocery bill was over $1000 every month. This month I have spent approximately $350, and, I can see where I can reduce this even more.

Overcoming Obstacles


In my bio, I refer to the fact that I have overcome many obstacles in my past. I recognize that I am again relying on those tools I relied on when I was in an incredibly difficult situation as a young woman.

When I was in high school my father used to kick me out of the house quite often. I would then try to find a safe place to stay. I often stayed at a friends house whose parents didn't seem to mind that I was sleeping in their sons bedroom. I'd stay at girlfriends houses, in my boyfriends car, strangers houses, etc. Now when I think of this I realize that the stress and fear I was living with was incredible.

One of my most memorable places was in a tent, squatting on someone's land, staying with my boyfriend and his friends. I remember one evening his friends coming to our campsite, getting high and drunk, and driving their mothers car into the lake! It was the dumbest thing I think I have ever witnessed.

Another time one of his friends sister came over, she and I went swimming, we were over 1/2 way across the lake when she decided she couldn't swim any farther. I ended up dragging her and swimming the remainder of the way because we were closer to the other side of the lake than the side we were staying on. In order to get us back to the campsite, I temporarily stole a boat, got her back to the tent, and had my boyfriend and his buddies return the boat.

As an adult, what sticks with me the most though, is that while everyone was out at the campfire partying, I was in the tent, with a flashlight, studying for my government exam!

I don't know what possessed me to be so determined to continue with high school. With the conditions I was working under most kids would have given up, but, I seemed to have a gift of survival that was beyond anything reasonable.

I graduated, certainly not with honors, but I made it through. Following graduation I was again told I had to leave home, and my parents set a deadline for when I needed to be out. I searched everywhere and couldn't find a place to live, primarily because I was only 17, and unable to sign a contract, and nobody wanted a tenant my age.

My mother and father began searching with me. My father even offered the landlords to cosign the lease for me, but, nobody would rent to me.

On the deadline day my parents drove me to the YWCA in downtown Detroit. All I knew about Detroit was the riots, that there was extreme racial tension, and that it wasn't a safe place to walk around, let alone live.

We walked into the lobby, were the only white people in the building, and I waited on a bench with my suitcase in hand, while my father went to the front desk to check me in. I sat looking around, feeling frightened, despised, and hopeless.

Fortunately, they must not have had room there for me to stay because my father came back and told me to get in the car. Even though I still didn't know what was going to happen to me, I remember feeling relief that I wouldn't be sleeping there that night.

Had my boyfriend been around, he would have helped me, but, he went into the service with the hopes of me joining him when I turned 18. I believe he was stationed in Texas at the time, and I'm surprised now when I think of it that I didn't run away to be with him.

I was actually relieved when my parents dropped me off at the Red Roof Inn. I remember the price of the room at that time was $55 though! They didn't have any single, less expensive rooms available until the following week. I didn't know how many nights I was going to be able to afford to stay at a hotel, but, it was a roof over my head and it was warm.

I didn't have a working automobile, my engine had blown a few weeks prior, so I called a friend and arranged a ride to work.

After I unpacked, I sat down on the bed and cried my heart out. I was in shock that my parents could be so callous, I'm still shocked that they could be, and I was scared for my life.

Being put into these types of situations repeatedly as I was, I was becoming incredibly self sufficient - although there were many, many, problems I have had to overcome to pay for this type of self sufficiency.

An unhealthy, seat of pants, self sufficiency is not what I want or need anymore. I obviously wasn't shown what it was to be responsible and respectful towards myself and I've recreated many dramatic situations in my adult life to reenact the treatment I received as a young adult. Not because I wanted to reenact it, but, because its all I knew to do at the time.

One of those situations I've created that isn't my healthiest, is to purchase a second home. I currently own two homes while I should only be affording one. This is not the first time I've done this. For some odd reason one home is not enough for me. Even though each time I've owned a second home, I have rarely been able to use it. Its as if I'm saying, "I will never be homeless again," yet, if my financial picture does not get into some reasonable order, it is very possible that I could find myself homeless one day.

I continue to recreate stressful financial situations that put me back into the position of feeling/being powerless. For example, I've over purchased on my home. I chose to purchase a home that was over twice the mortgage payment of my first home. I stretch myself to the breaking point financially - then work to prove that I can overcome the problem.

Its time I recognized that I'm not that young woman anymore. I didn't deserve to be treated so inhumanly by my parents, I don't know all the reasons they chose to act like that. I didn't deserve to have to live on the street at such a young age. I didn't have control over their actions at that time, but, I have control over my actions now.

I need to realize that its okay for me to be financially safe. I don't know it feels like not to be afraid, thus, I create situations of fear. Why? Because that's what I know. I've been sticking with what is comfortable to me - not comfortable in that it feels good, but comfortable in that I know what I need to do to create these feelings of fear and chaos.

Sometimes, I refer to Maslows hierachy of needs to see where I'm at in my life. Maslow himself said that poverty results from one of these needs being denied or neglected. As I look today, I find that I am still on step one and that I'm struggling on getting to the safety step. Each time I've achieved safety in the past, I've quickly created a new situation that has insured that I dropped back down to the first step.

I'm ready to do whatever it takes to accept safety into my life - even if I'm uncomfortable with it. I know I need it and I finally know I deserve it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

GOALS VERSUS WISHFUL THINKING



At the end of my husband and my third financial meeting, we had it on our agenda to write out our joint goals. This was something that I thought we would enjoy doing, however, it became one of the more heated discussions of tonights meeting.

My husband's goals were to travel whenever he wants, golf whenever he wants, have 1.4 million in a retirement account, pay off all our debts, to be prosperous, etc.

Whoa, 1.4 million in the retirement account! How about something that's attainable, or something I can comprehend? How will you know if you're traveling whenever you want? What determines prosperity? How will you know if you've even met your goal?

I struggle with writing what I call generic goals. Goals that have no real beginining or end. I want to be able to track whether I'm successfully working towards achieving my goal or not. I'd like to be able to actually cross a goal off the list when I've reached it. I want to know exactly where I'm headed and when I arrive.

Fortunately, my husband was able to work with me in writing out some very specific goals with the understanding that when we meet these goals, more goals will be written. Hopefully, someday, he'll be able to golf whenever he wants to, but, in the meantime, I need to know exactly what we need to do to get him to that position.

Our list of goals:
  • Pay off our outstanding loans.
  • Pay off our outstanding credit card debt.
  • To have an emergency fund of $35,000
  • To determine ways to produce a passive income of $2,000 per month or greater.
  • Determine how much we need to save for our retirement.
  • To continue to be financially responsible.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I SEE PROGRESS ALREADY!


I just found this great website to track my progress. Its nice to be able to see it all in one place, I hadn't even realized that I'd paid down $2,910 of my debt already. www.ncnmoney.com

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Financial Document Organization


As I've brought up several times in my blog .. . . I've not been paying attention to my finances and/or maintaining any sort of order, protection, or understanding of my financial picture:

However, that's changing! A large part of the change I am needing to make is making sure that I know what I need to know to be more financially responsible.

One area of this transformation has to do with bringing up to date, and/or maintaining current documentation of all areas that pertain to my financial picture. Based on an outline of document needs that has been outlined by Suze Orman, these are the documents I am currently working on bringing up to date, and organizing in one contained, financial packet.

CREDIT REPORT/CREDIT DOCUMENTS
  • Up to date copies of my three credit reports
  • Photocopies of active credit cards, front and back with 800 service # visible.
  • Copies of letters closing old credit cards.
PERSONAL DOCUMENTS
  • Birth Certificates
  • Copy of Driver's Licenses
  • Passports
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Child Support Documents
HOME OWNERSHIP
  • Deeds
  • Promissory Notes
  • Home owner's Insurance
  • Co-ownership Property Agreement
  • Fire Insurance
  • Copy of Survey
  • Copy of Title Policy
  • Appraisals/Evaluations of valuable items (jewelry, artwork, etc.)
AUTO DOCUMENTS
  • Auto Titles and/or Leases
  • Auto Insurance Policies
  • Auto Loan Documents
INSURANCE DOCUMENTS
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Health Insurance Card (Copy) Benefits Description
  • Long term care policy (we don't own this yet, but, need to discuss purchasing. Having watched my mother this is not something we should be without. )
  • Long term disability policy
SOCIAL SECURITY DOCUMENTS
  • Annual Social Security statement (supposed to compare W-2's to statement)
  • Social Security Card/s
  • Photocopies of spouses and children's Social Security Cards
RETIREMENT PLAN
  • Pension plan summary description, annual plan statement & annual individual pension benefit statemtnt.
  • Money purchase/profit-sharing plan documents
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Retirement account Withdrawals
INVESTMENT DOCUMENTS
  • Treasuries/Series I/Series EE/Notes
  • Stock Certificates
  • CD's
  • Annuity Contracts
  • Stock Option Grant Agreements
  • Asset List
  • Copies of All Investment account applications and agreements
ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
  • Advanced directive and durable power of attorney for health care
  • Financial durable power of attorney
  • Will
  • Pour over will
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Contracts of funeral or memorial arrangements
  • Documentation of prepaid fees to cemetery and/or funeral home
TAX RECORDS DOCUMENTS
  • Tax returns for past 3 years
  • Documentation of home-improvement records
  • Documentation of medical expenses
  • Documentation of donations to charities
  • Documentation of investment expenses
  • Documentation of employee business travel & entertainment
  • Documentation of higher education expenses
  • Documentation of student loan interest payments
  • Documentation of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, closing costs.
Some of these documents I have. . . .somewhere. Others of these documents I need, but don't have. Many of these documents are things that I need to take care of in order to have an understanding of what is happening now and in the future. And, so importantly, several of these documents are things I need to initiate to protect my spouse, family, and myself should anything happen to either my husband or I.

I'm so happy to be able to finally say, I have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, an Advanced Health Care Directive, and Durable Power of Attorney for Finance for both my husband and I. I recently filled out and ordered these estate planning documents on line at www.legacywriter.com for $34 and then went to Michigan 1st credit union and had them notorized.

Although being financially responsible feels like an enormous project, I am committing, in writing, that I will continue to take responsibility for myself and my finances.



Who Am I and Where Do I Live?


Having seen a copy of my credit report with Transunion last week, I decided to order my reports from the two remaining credit bureaus, Experian and Equifax. This information is free at www.annualcreditreport.com., everyone is eligible for a free credit report once a year.

What an eye opener. The name they have me actively listed under is a name that I used 28 years ago when I was married to my first husband. My current name is listed under former name. There are business/corporate accounts posted under personal, and business addresses posted as my residence,etc. What a mess! No wonder they can't figure out where I live.

One credit agency claims I have no negative accounts. Another states that I've been 120 days late on a mortgage payment and have 9 negative accounts!

My credit reports are 15, 24, and 27 pages long! Even though I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work this may take to get this straightened out, I feel grateful that I have the willingness to even address it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A STOCK MARKET ANGEL


I don't want to be superstitious or anything, but, I believe I have a stock market angel that watches over me.

I'm not educated on the stock market, can hardly understand stock reports, have difficulty reading the stock page, I do however, research the companies that I think I'd like to invest my money in.

In the past I would occasionally buy stocks. I bought Cisco at the advise of my brother and it went through the roof. I ended up selling it because I needed the money. Shortly thereafter, it went through the floor.

I bought Abercrombie & Fitch because I found that that's all my step daughter and her nieces would wear, it hit a record high before I sold it.

I purchased Nordstroms, it did really well also.

To date, I've only purchased one stock that lost money. . . I don't recall the specifics, but, the company had applied for an equipment patent for medical purposes. The stock did well until they were confronted with a patent infringement lawsuit. The company executives jumped ship, sold off their stock. That's never a good sign. The stock went way down.

My husband has a retirement program set up through his work. There are a variety of mutual funds that are available to purchase through his program. In the beginning, about 10 years ago, I thought Dodge and Cox DODGX sounded good. I began purchasing it at $75 per share, I purchased several hundred shares over time - they currently are at $153.

Over the past couple of years, learning about the lowering value of the US dollar, I thought it would be good to buy into a foreign funds. I chose SSEMX or SSgA-Emerging Markets. I'm not really sure what the returns on it have been, there seems to be so many conflicting numbers, but, moneycenral is listing it as 1 year return = 65.82%; 3 year return = 45.92%. etc. ttp://moneycentral.msn.com/detail/stock_quote?Symbol=SSEMX

Oddly, because of the high returns on SSEMX, and DODGX having slowed down to a 4% return, I decided to sell the DODGX and buy all SSEMX. Two days later the US stock market went into a downward spiral. I don't know if its leveled back out yet or not, but, SSEMX has sure gone up.

If my investment techniques sound vague, its because they are. I have almost no idea what I'm doing other than using some deductive reasoning, intuition, and prayer.

I'm so grateful that my investments have turned out so well though because my husband and I have had to borrow heavy on this retirement account. Recently when we took out a hardship loan of $13,000, SSEMX increased so quickly that I hadn't even realized that they money had been withdrawn.

Our account was $67,000 this past August and is currently at $84,000. Our ability to continue to invest in the account has been suspended for six months, so, to see these types of increases feels a bit like a life saver.

Now that my husband and I have made the commitment to be financially responsible, I'm beginning to see signs of that angel watching over my everyday finances.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FINANCIAL MEETING II


Tonight my husband and I sat down for our second financial meeting. As I've said in an earlier post, I've put together a newsletter that shows where we our financially. All of our account balances, pending income, debt balances and pending invoices are shown on this newsletter.

Right now how we're conducting the meetings, is to have my husband read out loud each of the points written out. The reason we've set it up like this is because I'm the one whose compiled the information, but I don't want to be the only one familiar with it. By his reading it out loud, it helps me to know that he's been informed, and, it also creates discussion between us. Since he's reading it for the first time, he's the one initiating the questions. I think this is important because, in the past, it seemed I was the one with all the information, I was the one ruling the discussions, which resulted in me being the one who was generally making most of the decisions - while his eyes were glazed over.

We begin with our Mission Statement, we located a fun way to write our statement at http://www.franklincovey.com/fc/library_and_resources/mission_statement_builder.

Our Mission is to achieve financial freedom and prosperity as a team, while being respectful towards each other, keeping our minds open, using our individual gifts of thinking analytically and outside the box, in a humorous, loving and accepting way.

Next I've listed additional ways we've found to save money. . . . this week it was by changing dry cleaners to Dry Cleaning Depot. . . . this will save us at a minimum $20 per month, or $240 per year. I've also canceled my e-fax account and am changing my fax to the home phone I have only because I need it for internet service - we don't even have a phone attached to it! I hooked up a copier/fax to the phone line. This saves us $17 a month, or $204 per year. Our yearly savings is now up to $22,929.

After patting ourselves on the back, we move on to the Agenda. This weeks Agenda begins with us reviewing the October budget and noting if there are any adjustments that need to be made. We're still blowing in the wind on the budget, since it's the first one we've ever done, and, incredibly we're appearing to be fairly close.

Our credit reports were then reviewed. I had written letters to Transunion earlier , printed them, and put it in each of our files to sign and mail out.

We again reviewed our insurance policies and decided to stay with e-surance for our auto insurance, but, need to do further research on our homeowners and condo insurance.

It started to get a little heated when we hit on our next subject of discussing existing accounts and payment adjustments.

My husband wants me to contact the mortgage company (because it's in my name), and find out if we can go on an interest only payment plan for the next six months. He's fairly convinced that this will give us the money we need to pay off our credit cards and "even the student loans". Well, this concerned me since our mortgage is at 8.5% and my student loans are at 4.5%. I tried to follow his logic, which was cash flow, but I could not determine what the actual costs for something like this might be. Neither he nor I know how to figure this dollar amount out, so, his homework was to find out. Our home mortgage is $321,400 at 8.5%.

Our second account under discussion, our second mortgage. I've had my mortgage put on an accelerated payment plan. It's been on the plan for about 8 months. The reason I had chosen to do this was because I intend on paying this second house off. The first house we plan to sell, but the second house I'd like to keep. I make payments on this mortgage every other Friday in the amount of $720 - well - next month there are 5 Fridays. Ouch-that means 3 payments! I don't want to stop this program though because I paid $295 to set it up (convenience) and don't want to lose that investment. I'll contact them tomorrow to discuss refinancing this loan, stopping or delaying the automatic accelerator program.

Finally, the last account is a loan we had taken out against our retirement account. We pay $1000 per month towards this loan, with a balance of $39,000. Not something that's going to be ending soon. Although my husband called to ask that we change the payment amount, an amount that we had set up, they said we couldn't do it by phone, but could possibly request it by mail.

Our last item of on the agenda, income producing ideas. We have some valuable items that we've been wanting to sell, but, haven't put the energy into getting these items to the proper sources for resale. My husband has a civil war pistol valued at a few thousand that he needs to write the lineage on, have notarized, and provide the information and photos to an antique gun dealer. I have several pieces of artwork by well known artists that I'm wanting to sell, some of which has tripled in value.

Neither of us is very good with this type of follow up, so, I will keep it on the agenda until these items are taken care of. I believe that as long as it's put in our face repeatedly, the more likely we are to address it.

We then scheduled our next meeting, make note if there's something we want addressed at the next meeting and put together a delegation list for the items that came up at this weeks meeting. My strengths are organizing, compiling information, tracking spending, composing letters, etc. My husbands strengths are calling people on the phone, and following up on information. That's how we delegate, according to our strengths and preferences.

This weeks meeting lasted for two hours. I'm assuming our meetings last this long because we've neglected our finances for s-o-o-o-o long. I would hope that we will eventually get this down to a one hour meeting.

Next week we'll be writing our goals, (didn't have time tonight), and discussing living wills, power of attorney, life insurance, etc. I'm planning to go into the hospital for major surgery next month and know that this is another area that we've neglected too long.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I AM WORTHY OF A GOOD FICO SCORE


While opening a checking and savings account at Michigan First Credit Union earlier this week, they ran a credit report on both my husband and I. Although we hadn't realized they would be doing this, they ran the reports to see if there were any areas where they could be offering us lower rates on our mortgage and auto loans. Had I known in advance they would be running these reports, I may not have opened these accounts.

Most of my adult life, I have felt humiliated at what my credit report looks like. My husband has an equally poor credit report. Although my husband no longer has a bankrupcy showing on his report, he continues to riddle his report with unpaid doctors bills. Although this may not seem like much of a problem, in this tight economy, it stopped him from being able to qualify for a loan on our second house.

I, on the other hand, have one major flaw on my report, and a couple smaller, but still important flaws. I carry two mortgages and an auto loan on my credit report. I also have a credit card that is over its limit ($10,800) , student loans that are on perpetual deferment, and miscellaneous other irritating and unnecessary notations.

The primary flaw on my report is for a mortgage payment that I made through my on line banking account with Comerica Bank. After I made the on line payment of $3,800, the mortgage company stated they had never received it. The bank insisted that they sent it. I had paperwork indicating that the money had been removed from my account.

Whoa, talk about between a rock and a hard place. These two large financial organizations proved to be impossible to penetrate and resolve this issue. Over a year passed without this situation being resolved, it continued to be "researched" by the mortgage company at our insistence, while the bank did very little to help us. The bank personnel would only look into it if we were standing in front of them in person, and then, they just insisted it had been paid.

Finally, the entire situation was resolved, unsatisfactorily for us, by our refinancing the loan, and having to roll the $3,800 into the new mortgage.

The explanation provided by the bank was so complicated that I can't even describe it here, and, I'm not convinced that the bank didn't make a mistake. The mortgage company is happy because they've been paid. We're happy to have been able to refinance at all with reports of 60 and 90 day late notices on my credit.

Our next financial meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening. One item on our agenda is to review our credit reports. At this meeting we'll address the issues that we are able to by drafting a letter to the credit bureaus explaining the situation, and determining what else we can do to clean up our negative credit.

Finally, I need to take a look at my/our belief system regarding my money. In the past, I have believed that I am not worthy of a good financial life. In fact, the one memory I have regarding money was hearing my parents tell me that I couldn't save a dollar. I'm sure they didn't realize the impact of that statement, but, it was my choosing to carry that statement through my adult life that is the problem.

Old destructive patterns crop up and I create situations where I'm not looking too good on paper (or feeling too good inside). If I believed I was worthy I would have already written the credit bureaus, I would have kept my credit card balances down, paid on time, not exceeded my limits, etc. Instead I chose to be sloppy, lazy, procrastinate and dishonest with myself regarding my finances. I have earned a FICO score of 530, while my husband has earned a 572.

Its time for me to grow up and take responsibility. Am I worthy of a good FICO score? Yes, I believe I'm earning the right to have a decent score. It's not easy, but, for me right now, its necessary. It affects how I see myself - and its time I see myself in a better light.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Weekend of Entertainment for $1.50


My nine year old granddaughter and I spent the entire weekend together and I managed to come up with some pretty creative ways to spend our time.

On Friday I took her to Michigan First Credit Union to open a savings account. She was SO excited! They gave her a pencil case full of fun things, and showed her how to record her deposit transaction. They really treated her wonderfully, she decided to come home and make the woman who helped her a thank you card. Later, we decided that Friday would be cooking day, and Saturday art day.

Friday we made sushi, both of our favorite meals. Sushi is the NUMBER 1 expense for our family in dining out. When we first began reading the cookbook, she did say she wished we could just go to the restaurant, we had an absolute riot making cucumber rolls, tamago, miso soup, and salad. When we finished, she declared it to be her favorite sushi and thought it tasted better than the restaurants,and, honestly, it did!

Saturday started out with us raking leaves. I'd decided to not use the landscaping company we usually use for fall cleanup. Living on a 1/2 acre of land this is quite an undertaking and I haven't found a leaf blower that I want to purchase on craigslist yet. I drew an imaginary line through the backyard, cutting the lot into 4 parts. Only two of the four areas really needed to be raked, where the trees are located, the other areas only have minimum amounts of leaves. Because of all the work we were putting into this project, when she decided she should jump into the leaves it was in a fairly controlled manner. She didn't want to spread the leaves all over the lawn again. If she hadn't participated in the work, I'm sure she wouldn't have considered this.

When we got to the last pile of leaves, we decided to make a girl scarecrow out of them. Alexis, my granddaughter, ran upstairs to find some clothes for her, returned with her jeans, a sweater and a belt. We stuffed the leaves into the arms of the sweater, put a long branch through the armholes, secured another branch from the head too the legs, and dressed her - stuffing everything with leaves. All we needed now was a head. Using a small, round, pillow and an old sheet, we secured the sheet over the pillow with a hair tie. Alexis painted a face on our scarecrow. We put a hat on her and set her on the porch! She looks wonderful. . . . . . and she was 100% free!

What I noticed was that each time we started a project, Alexis was excited, half way through the project, Alexis was bored, near the end of the project, Alexis was tired, at the completion of the project, Alexis was proud of herself. The result for both projects, the cooking and the leaves, was followed by a reward - the sushi and the scarecrow.

Until recently, I believe that I was the one who was be giving up before I get my "reward". In the past few months I've been forcing myself to complete projects and it really does feel great.

Later, Alexis wanted to do more art projects, she also wanted me to locate her an empty binder for her new pencil case from the bank. I recycled one of my old office binders, turned the divider tabs upside down so she had a clean set, and gave her a bowl of rubber cement, a pair of scissors, and some junk mail magazines.

Alexis began putting together a binder of pictures, fashions, and anything else she wanted to cut out. She spent a couple of hours working on this while I took some time to relax. Cost of project. . . .free.

Alexis spent 1/2 hour reading to me from Junie B. Jones. . . . We finished the day off by watching a movie together - "My Little Princess". This child was entertained the entire day, helped around the house, and made some beautiful art projects. I never felt I had to spend a penny. Remarkable!

Sunday we drove by the bank, delivered her card, and spent the afternoon at the library. I did break down on Sunday and bought a bag of grocery store bagels and picked up other items I was needing from the store for the week. Total cost incurred with granddaughter $1.50.

While we were out, my granddaughter took me by game stop. She had been telling me that she has a play station 2 at her dad's, but no games. She said they only cost $5 at game stop. I looked and listened as she showed me the games she thought were fun, I wrote down the titles in my palm (Christmas ideas), and we left the store - no complaining, no whining. Going in to the store I let her know I was only going to look. She respected the boundaries and was excited to share her knowledge of thrift with me. The games ranged in price from $2.99 to $14.99.

At one point during the weekend, I asked her a questions about money . . . . .

What do you know about money? I know how to count.
What is money? Its stuff that you can like buy groceries to help you survive.
Where does money come from? Pennies come out of copper. Money I think you make out of paper and paper makes out of trees.
Who makes the money? Don't know
How do you become rich? You have to have a really good job or business, and whenever you have a really good job it pays really good, and whenever you do something good to help your boss.

It's amazing that the last statement is something that we carry from childhood into adulthood. When I told Alexis that she didn't have to have a really good job that paid really good to be rich, she was surprised. It doesn't matter how much you make - it's how much you save.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

$22,500 Reduction in Expenses



GREAT NEWS!
We’ve chosen to save $144 per year by changing banks from Comerica to Michigan 1st.
We chose to save $2600 by cleaning our home ourselves.
We’ve chosen to save $2304 this year by putting together our own gym. Our $700 investment will be paid for within 3.5 months.
Husband decided to save $840 by purchasing clippers - (oops, he didn't use a mirror though- better luck next time) .
I found an Arabic market near my home that sells their produce for 60% less than chain grocery stores. This saves us about $2400 per year.
We’ve refinanced one of our homes! This saved us $12,000 per year in payments!
I've been doing my manicures and pedicures at home, this saves us $45 per month or $540 per year.
A cut and color costs $180 per visit. By performing these services at home we’ll save $1080 per year.
We’ve knocked off a minimum of $577 on the Direct Merchants credit card, at 29.9% interest, by agreeing to a six month payoff period, paying 1578 or the 2155 owed, eliminating additional interest payments and finance fees. Yup, it comes up on the credit report, however, I'll write the credit bureaus letting them know it was due to loss of business.

These items alone are saving us $22,485 each year, and, there are several other actions we've put into play to reduce our spending which I won't be able to put a price on until they show up on our utility bill, at the gas pump, and other.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Frightening Financial Agenda


Over the past couple of weeks I've been researching to find out what our financial picture looks like. Today, since my husband and I are having a financial meeting, I put the complete picture together!

Using a newsletter template, I compiled and printed our volume one, issue one of "Jewel Financial'. We'll be putting together our mission statement by going through the team section at www.franklincovey.com/fc/library_and_resources/mission_statement_builder.Then we'll move into our agenda which we determined a couple of days ago. The agenda consists of reviewing October's buget, reviewing insurance coverages on auto, home, condo, and reviewing our banking selections.

In addition to the above, I've listed what we currently have in each of our accounts, as I've said in the past, we have a LOT of accounts between our two businesses and our household.

Next to our assets I've listed our long term expenses and our pending monthly expenses. This is the part that I wish I hadn't done though. I believe its too much information for a first meeting. I actually felt physically sick when I saw the bottom line numbers.

I ended up calling a prayer line for support because I was so frightened.

I still need to perform these same tasks for my business so I can see what's going on there. I know I have outstanding debts, but I don't know how much. I can think of several thousand off the top of my head though.

Currently we have access to $1,515. Our Credit and Loans total $37,000. Our Mortgage balance is $462,342. For a total of $499,342! (Later: Oops, I forgot to add in a $46,000 loan that we pay $1000 on per month. Next day later. . . . another $3000 construction debt past due to add to the bottome line. )

We owe 1/2 a million dollars!

Differing Financial Opinions


My husband and I agreed to have a budget meeting tomorrow evening. This is a big commitment for both of us because neither of us likes to talk with each other about financial decisions, what to do with our money, how to spend it, how to save it, etc. We primarily don't like to talk about it because-its exhausting and, we don't agree.

We have two, extremely different financial styles and they collide at each conversation. Because of this neither of us handle the finances regularly, I pay the bills when due, or when past due or shut off, he ignores the finances completely.

In my mind, my husbands financial style is think about the short term. My style is to think about the long term. I prefer to feel the pain now for the payoff later.

One example that we can't agree on. . . . I drive a 2004 Expedition that I pay $635 per month on through my corporation, there is a balance due of $10,000. We also have a 1999 Windstar that has 150,000+ miles on it.

Because of my business, I need a large car for when materials need to be transported, but I do not have to drive a large auto all the time. We want to purchase a smaller auto without taking out a loan that I can drive on a regular basis and keep one of the cars for our second, less driven car.

Here's where the disagreements begin. . . . my husband wants us to sell the Expedition so that we can eliminate the $635 monthly payment. I want to sell the Windstar because its the oldest car and will last the shortest amount of time, and, because I've already invested $24,000 in the auto and I don't want to walk away from that investment.

Since I purchased it at the end of 2004, if I was to sell this car now, it would cost me over $8,000 a year to have driven the Expedition! If I keep it for a total of 10 years, it would cost me $3,400 per year and last until 2014.

If I sell the Expedition (husbands plan), I could pay off the $10,000 balance and make approximately $1,000. The Windstar would still be the secondary auto, because its too large to be a gas saver, and it will last approximately 2 more years, or 2009.

For him, the relief of eliminating the monthly payment of $635 is more important than anything. For me, having a reliable, long lasting auto in the end is most important.

In the meantime, we'll continue to build up a fund for this smaller car. Fortunately, this decision does not need to be made immediately.

For this budgetary meeting tomorrow evening, we've put together a fairly short agenda that will help my husband be brought up to speed on what's happening financially, and a couple of areas of cost savings/reductions that we need to discuss.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How I Saved Money Today


The many ways I saved money today. . . . . . ..

. Used cruise control while driving, drove the speed limit.
. Left the lights turned off during the daytime and turned off lights behind my
daughter and her girlfriend. Only turned on lights as needed.
. Made a very large batch of chicken soup, froze 3 dinners worth.
. Cut up a large bowl of carrots and celery for nibbling on instead of other, more costly, foods.
. Made a large batch of hommus so that I and others will have plenty of foods to choose from when hungry. Having foods prepared saves by not stopping to get something to eat while out. I have small containers of fruits, vegetables, and nuts with me that I eat throughout the day. When I took two girls shopping this evening I made sure I ate before I went (when they saw me eating they started eating too), threw a few things in a bag and went out the door. When we got out of the mall we all grabbed a few snacks to hold us over for dinner.
. Made a large batch of rice. Again, same thought process. By me having large amounts of healthy, natural foods in the house there is never a need to stop and get something while we're out. Plus rice is reasonably priced. We can and do graze all day.
. Set a limit on my daughters birthday presents. She says she needs/wants a winter coat and a pair of jeans. Fortunately, I had $50 in gift certificates for the store she found her coat at! Also, she pushed me on the one pair of jeans by purchasing 3 pairs of jeans at very low prices. She began looking at other items though, and I was feeling the pressure, so I asked if she wanted the jeans she had in her hands, when she said yes I took them from her (nicely) - leaving the other items still in her hands and went to the cash register.
. Worked out in my new home gym. . . .saved gas and am not wasting the investment we made into this fantastic used gym equipment that we purchased on craigslist.
. Composted all the cuttings of today's foods preparing for next years garden.
. Chose not to offer my daughter money to go to the movies with her girlfriend.
. Contacted a modern furniture store to see if they were interested in purchasing several (30-40) light fixtures that I have new in box. (They are a holdover from my furniture store). I was told he was "very interested" and I'll wait to see if it happens before I get excited about it.
. Paid bills on-line and on time - saved on stamps and late fees.
. Began to put together a spreadsheet listing the costs of items at various stores and programming in the formula to reduce the price to cost per ounce. Its fascinating! My intention is to be able to know if I'm getting a good price, and also, when I hit a really good sale.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Setting Up An Emergency Fund


At the end of last month my emergency fund was down to $191! I hope that I never allow that to happen again.

This month I'm trying an experiment. I'm going to be taking all income in excess of our salaries and placing it into an emergency fund. My goal is to get this fund up to approximately $1500.

So far, my father sent me a birthday check $75, my husband had an unexpected residual check $377, I requested money rather than a "reward" on my MBNA credit card $120. Another acting check for $450 came in. And its only the first week of the month!

I'm not certain that I'll be able to keep it up, but, I'm thrilled that we've had so much come in already. The account is back up to $1300 and I feel I can breathe a little bit easier. Because our house payments are $5000, and one of us is self employed, I feel like this account needs to be larger, but, $1300 is better than it was last week.

I've begun tithing again (I'm sure this has something to do with this added income), this is something I've done off and on for the past 15 years. Its been difficult for me to stick with it, but, I have always prospered incredibly when I am tithing.

One of the reasons I continued to stop and start is because I don't know what I'm making, I don't know what my husband is making since we have it set up on automatic deposit, I have bills coming out of my business account that are automatically paid and I'm not seeing the "income" as personal to tithe off of. Currently I am working out a system to be more aware of my income and this will give me to ability to tithe appropriately.

The other reason I stop and start is because sometimes I begin thinking that I'm not going to have enough, forgetting that God is my source! It drives me crazy when I begin to operate out of fear and not out of trust. Whenever I am not tithing I am always afraid, when I am tithing I am still sometimes afraid no matter how many times I've been shown prosperity. Without tithing I have no sense of hope, with tithing I know that God will provide.

I say a prayer of thanks when I write this tithe check, because I really am grateful for everything I've been given. I then send my tithe off with love and gratitude.





However,

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thinking Like a Tightwad

After having signed out from the library books one and two of the Tightwad Gazette, I decided to purchased the hardback copy of the "Complete Tightwad Gazette; Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle" by Amy Dacyczyn.

Its hard to describe what this book has done for my thinking process regarding saving money. It makes the process of saving more of a game for me than a chore. I feel excited to save money. It's really a lot of fun. For my husband it seems he's feeling deprived, for me, I feel the opportunity to be creative and to prosper. I love the way my mind needs to analyze situations and their impact on the bottom lime. I recognize how on the surface it may appear I'm saving money, yet, in reality I may not be.

Today I ended up shopping at three different stores. We had run out of contractor bags and I didn't know where to purchase them. I didn't find contractor bags at the first store, but, as I was going through the store I thought I saw good prices on some of our regularly purchased items. However, I began to realize that unless I'm purchasing something on a weekly basis, I don't really know what a good price is for these items. I know what I usually pay for meats, fish, and produce, however, I don't know what I pay for other items like toilet paper, bleach, laundry detergent, etc.

I next went to Target, and, while I was there, I began to write down prices and ounces for things like laundry detergent, fabric softener, toilet paper, coffee, etc. I recorded prices for items that I buy on a regular basis. Again, no compactor bags.

Later I ended up at Kroger's. While there I wrote down the prices for the same items I wrote down the prices for at Target. By this time I'm beginning to realize that there are some substantial price differences between the three stores. Had I bought Bleach at Aco, I would have saved $1.00 per jug (sorry I don't know the ounces) . Had I bought 5 jugs I could have saved $5.00. But, since I don't know the price of bleach I didn't buy any.

Earlier in the day I had purchased ketchup at market because I believed $2.99 for 44 ounces was a really good buy. After seeing that Ketchup costs $2.19 for 36 ounces at Target I started to think it wasn't a great buy, but, it wasn't a bad one either. When I saw I could have bought 64 ounces at Kroger for the same $2.99 though I began to realize that I could save a bit of money if I'm aware of pricing.

When I actually did the math on that bottle of ketchup, Krogers ended up to be about .46 per ounce, the markets price worked out to .68 an ounce, and targets was .60 an ounce. I paid the highest price!

In the tightwad gazette the author recommends keeping a notepad with you and recording prices. When I first read that statement I thought that was ridiculous, then I found myself in a situation where it wasn't too outrageous for me to check on just a few prices. Now, I'll be taking a notebook with me so I can be more educated about what I'm spending my money on.

I'm not the type of person that would even consider shopping at all these different stores just to save a buck though! But, if, while I'm at the hardware store and I see a bargain I can at least know to buy it. Finally, since I don't plan on making a special trip to the hardware store, I can decide whether I want to buy the item in bulk because I KNOW it's a savings.

In the past my husband and I spent up to $1000+ per month for groceries. Because of all the changes I've made in the past few months, I have reduced this months budget to $400. Again, I'm not obsessed as to whether or not we make this budget, but I'd like to keep an eye on it so I can see the progress we're making.

Since changing our light bulbs, turning off lights when not in use, drying clothes on the clothes line (one of us is doing this), our electrical savings were 23% this past month.

I don't like rigidity, it sets up a situation where I feel deprived, so, rather than forcing myself to follow all these restricting rules, I'm allowing myself to create situations where I can succeed.

Setting Up a Household Budget

In order for me to set up a budget I need to know how much I make and how much I spend. Right now. . . . I still have NO idea. Because I have no idea, I just keep striving to make more money. I truly have a black hole that I just pour all this money into, and, in the end, I still never really know if I've made enough, spent too much, or broke even.

Being self employed and taking care of both work and home finances has proven very difficult for me. After I lost my storefront to a flood, my routine changed, I moved out of my office and into my home. What worked at the storefront doesn't work at my home office. I don't have a secretary who performed a portion of the procedures for each payable and receivable. I don't have a consistent system at all.

Worse, while I used to invoice the client and purchase the product with their payment, I now pay whatever I can and hope there is money enough to order the product. Again, its those damn automatic payments! Rather than paying the bills when I have the money, they are automatically removing the money from my account.

I'm committed to building my emergency fund. I've set an initial goal of $1000. I feel terrified not having money to access in case of an emergency.

I do have $80,000 in a 401K fund, and, I've borrowed against it three times since losing my store. Once I borrowed $40,000 for the renovations on our condo (which was supposed to be my new office space), $50,000 to buy my husband five years of employment when he began working under a political appointee who makes his life (and mine) fairly miserable (a strange thing the state does for their employees, he can now retire 5 years earlier and there's no penalty from taking it from your 401k account), and the last loan was to make sure our home didn't go into foreclosure when our house payment exceeded $4000 per month - and we were 3 months behind.

I know its a horrible financial decision to borrow from this account, but, it was an emergency, I hadn't planned on losing my business and I had already gutted the condo. Many, many expenses from the business drained our financial resources completely. Yes, I had insurance, but it took me three years to collect. My insurance company was Hastings Mutual, and, since I can't say anything nice about them, I won't say anything at all.

In talking with my husband about finances it's pretty obvious that he and I have a different philosophy about how to save money. Its proven to be quite frustrating and our learning curve together is enormous. I'm certain this is part of the reason that he and I don't pay attention. Working on our financial picture together is painful. I do hope it gets easier because I'm getting too old for this. I need this to be the last time that we're going to be this out of touch financially.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's Time I Start Christmas Shopping !


About this time every year I start feeling the urge to begin my Christmas shopping!

Throughout the year I listen to what my kids offhandedly mention they want or need. One of my sons doesn't like to receive gifts. In the past I upgraded my used laptop, made candles with his favorite scent, and recently, for his birthday, I made dinners and froze them, gave him a large salad bowl that I learned he needed, bought him a water filterer that can be used in the wilderness, and I purchased a very nice sleeping bag (60% off!). He loved these gifts. He really keeps me on my creative gift giving toes.

My other son has expensive taste and is a bit more difficult to find gifts for. I bought a sweater on overstock.com last Christmas that I thought he might like (my kids know they can return anything they don't like without hurting my feelings) and it ended up being his favorite sweater - he wears it all the time. It was $250 reduced to $14!

Saturday my two sons and I took my granddaughter birthday shopping for a new bike. We went in on the bike. My oldest mentioned that she needed a helmet, which we hadn't budgeted for, but, it really is a necessity. I agreed to pay for that in addition to a half the price of the bike. My granddaughter has everything from her other side of the family. My side of the family is a bit in shock and overwhelmed by all the things she has. She owns every new video gaming system that comes out, many of the games, every dvd imaginable, etc. She's already difficult to buy for and she's only 9! It's awful.

While we were shopping though I heard my oldest say he needed a bike helmet too. He wasn't asking me for one, it was just mentioned in passing. The next time I was at my computer I pulled up my word document called Gift Ideas and added it to the list. Later, I mentioned to my youngest son that I was trying to find a punching bag on Craigslist for my new gym. His eyes lit up, "that's what I need! When I'm playing poker and feel like punching the wall I would love to have a punching bag that I could beat on!" Whoa, I heard that one! It went right onto the gift list and I'm already searching Craigslist for it.

My third (step) child is obsessed with clothes and fashion. Each year she receives a special hardcover book related to her favorite designers. Hopefully she's use these as resources for her college studies of fashion design. Again, here is another child who gets just about everything she wants, yet, her mother is broke. She can't hold a job, a residence, an auto (she parks it at her older daughters houses), yet my step daughter has a subscription to every fashion magazine, buys new clothes weekly and has more on layaway, and recently her and her mother "won" the opportunity to get electrolysis on their face for "only $1700"! It's just a bit too insane for me to comprehend. One of her favorite gifts from me a couple of years ago was a box of custom designed "fashion" business cards with her cell number and email address. I was able to put this together so easily it was surprising. This will be her first year receiving a "used, like new" fashion book - but I think its good for her and I doubt she'll even mind. She also collects crosses so I'll keep my eyes open for a unique, possibly vintage, cross.

By keeping my gift list, and listening throughout the year, I'm able to get gifts that I believe they truly will appreciate, I can purchase the gifts when I see them at the best prices, and I NEVER have to enter a shopping mall after Thanksgiving.

Caring for Myself: Shopping for Groceries

Caring for Myself: Shopping for Groceries

Comparison Shopping

I'm becoming a bit fascinated now with all the ways I can save money.

The most recent efforts I've made are. . . comparison shopped my auto insurance policies and learned I could be saving $520 a year by changing from esurance to progressive. I would, however, need to pay the full amount for 6 months which would be about $820 twice a year. Still, I'd be saving $520 a year! Add that $520 to all those other areas I've adjusted and I'm up to about $23,000 in savings a year! (Wow, I'm stunned at how much fat there's been in my spending)

Another area I've researched is my bank. I pay a lot in bank fees. I've applied for a free checking and savings account at Charter One and should be getting the paperwork in the mail shortly. This is a savings of approximately $120 per year or greater.

This is a riot - I love it! I want to find more areas to cut back on.

I've been so strapped financially lately that I don't have the $820 right now. I can, however, set that amount of money aside and just make it the next priority payment.

Right now I have about $200 in a savings account and about $80,000 in a 401K account. I have $13,000 in credit card debt and I own two homes with a balance owed of $470,000. I owe $10,000 to pay off my auto loan and I have a second car which is paid off. The auto loan is at a 0% interest rate so I won't be paying that off early. I also owe $12,000 in student loans which are at a 4.5% interest.

I know that as long as I can see what is going on financially for me than I will be able to get back on my feet. The biggest problem for my husband and I has been that we are completely out of touch with our bills and have no idea what we even need to make on a monthly basis to pay our bills.

Having once lived with very little I am actually looking forward to getting this situation turned back around. The way I got into this position is that I felt I needed to put everything on automatic because I needed to focus my energy on building my business. Well, I built my business and it was crazy prosperous, then, one day, almost everything was lost in a flood. For the next three years the insurance company played their games and essentially put me out of business.

Regardless of past circumstances, I find myself in a position where I am needing to reduce my monthly debts, increase my income, get an emergency fund in the bank, and eliminate my credit card debts.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Making Better Financial Choices

I'm still wading through my financial maze. Things I've discovered are. . .

SITUATION: I paid $30 in bank fees this past August and $16 so far in September. This is only on our personal checking account. We have 3 accounts with this bank, 2 are business and 1 is personal. I'm sure the bank fees for business are higher than personal accounts.

SOLUTION: I'll transfer our personal checking account to a free checking account at Charter One Bank. My husband will need to stop direct deposit of his paycheck, I'll need to first determine what is paid automatically through this account, put those bills on a regular payment plan where I need to feel the money/transaction going through my hands. I'll also transfer our personal savings account to the same bank. I'll need to discuss with my accountant what needs to happen in order to transfer my business checking account to another bank. My accountant currently receives my statements (again, I have little idea what's going on), orders my checks, and takes care of everything pertaining to this account. My husband also has a business account at this bank, and, although I didn't see any charges on his last statement, I'm not certain as to why. I'm sure he has bank fees also.

SITUATION: We give our kids $1000's of dollars each year in gifts. This really isn't something we can afford to continue doing though. One of our sons is doing an internship right now and has no time for a paying job. That would be pretty much the only situation where assistance is necessary.

SOLUTION: Have talked with two of the kids regarding the reduction of our gift giving. Because I collect piggy banks, I also am a change saver. We'll take all of the change from these banks once a year and use it towards our christmas gift giving.

SITUATION:
I am unaware of how much we pay for utilities, auto insurance, even one of our house payments! Because I have so much on automatic, its caused me to be completely out of touch with what is going on financially.

SOLUTION: Get everything off of automatic payment. Begin to use cash for daily purchases, consciously pay bills needing to be paid through online bill pay (free service at Charter One), get in touch with my money. Find out where we're spending our money and determine if that is where we actually want it spent.

I'm committed to creating a system of debt reduction and financial responsibility.