Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fourth Week of November Update: Thanksgiving Edition

Well, it is done.  Three thousand two hundred forty-nine dollars and sixty nine cents later, we have PAID OFF THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD!!  This was the card with our highest balance, over $10,000, when we started this process less than 2 years ago!

We have so very much to be thankful for – in a time of economic distress around the country, we were able to hold down two jobs each and totally blow away our goals and completely pay off a credit card!  We now have less than $4,500 worth of credit card debt, and have less than $43,000 combined.

With the wife pregnant, and her second job disappearing, I expect that our last 4 debts will take a while to knock out, but it is worth it to just get rid a card that I have carried a very high balance on for over two years.

We beat our goal this month by over $1,200, due mostly in part to our secondary jobs making more than anticipated.  Probably sometime after Thanksgiving, I’ll write down our December goals, but I can already tell that it isn’t going to be near as aggressive as November was.

Stay tuned & Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Third Week of November Update

This was a pretty good week, in that we paid off $356.00 worth of debt, but it was an even better week, as we passed several milestones.  For the first time in forever, our credit cards have less than a $6,000 balance, and our total debt is now under $44,000 total.  That means that in 23 months, we have paid over $34,000 in debt.  That’s only averaging just under $1,500 a month, and with these updates, you are seeing the phenomenal progress we are making now, so that tells you just how little progress we were making at the beginning of this…

We got some news yesterday about my wife’s primary job.  She’s a nanny, and with the Thanksgiving break coming up, she won’t be needed the entire week next week, so that will cut our progress in December, but with all our income considered, we should still pay our American Express Credit card off this month!  (If we get within a few hundred dollars, I’m going to preemptively send the money in, just to avoid having an interest payment to make in January…)

This month, so far, we’ve paid $1,967.39 off of the American Express.  We will break $2,000 easily this month, and will approach $3,000 by the Thanksgiving update!  That is definitely something to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Changes…

Well, my wife put in her notice at her second job, so she’ll be done the day before Thanksgiving.  I think that will allow us to pay off the AmEx before her checks are finished coming from that job, and it was only an extra $150/week, but it does slow some things down.

You will notice that we almost got within $100 of our goal for the month this week, meaning that next week’s checks are mostly gravy.  We would have beaten it this week, but I re-arranged our finances to go ahead and start allocating money towards the pregnancy, rather than throwing everything at the debt.  I only pulled back a little, though, so our AmEx should be taken care of by the second week in December – still an accomplishment in itself.

I’m getting very tired, and really look forward to the time that I don’t have but a single job again, but I know that pushing forward and really dealing with our credit card debt is going to have us going into the new year in a much better position than last year was…  And don’t get me wrong, in this day with the economic downturn, weakening economy, high unemployment, etc., I count my blessings – I’m just ready to quit paying “stupid tax”.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Second Week of November

This was an excellent week!  We made HUGE strides towards our goal, mostly through the combination of getting checks from both of our secondary jobs in the bank in time to make the payments this week.

I hadn’t considered that my second job wasn’t really going to slow down for a couple of weeks, even though I changed my availability, so I have already made more than I thought I would, and I still have another paycheck this month to apply against it.  My wife also got a pretty good paycheck, so she only has $100 left to earn this month from that, and she should beat that, probably by $100 or so.  Alternatively, however, I didn’t take into account Thanksgiving, and the effect that would have on her primary job, so there may be some reduced income there.  We should still beat our goal, even if only by a few hundred dollars, but we’ll see…

So here’s our Debt Reduction Update:

We started the month with a balance of $3,249.69 on the American Express card, and worked it down to $2,721.30 last week.  This week, the balance on the card is $1,638.30, meaning that we have paid $1,083 off of the card this week!!  This is, by far, our biggest week in debt reduction EVER!  It helped to have 4 paychecks and a vehicle reimbursement check hit just right, but we have already absolutely SLAMMED the American Express and paid off 50% of the balance left on it, and we’ve only had two weeks worth of work on it!

Of course, next week won’t be as drastic a reduction as either week 1 or 2 was, but we should still see at least $300 worth of progress, and that puts us within just a $150 or so of our goal for the month.  Then, week 4, Thanksgiving week, we should see another spike in our payoff (again with 4 paychecks) and that should be another $600-700, beating our goal by $500 or so, and leaving less than $1,000 on the credit card.  The first week of December should pay that off, and then we can re-evaluate where to go from there.

My current thought is to begin socking money away, rather than paying off the final credit card, but a lot of effort to this point has gone into getting rid of the cards, and I hate to leave that last one lingering, especially if we can take it out in a couple of months (which, given the progress we’ve made the last two, that sounds like an achievable goal.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Did We Get Here?

Most of my posts of late have been detailing the measure of success we have had eliminating our credit card debt.  Today, I want to focus not on the progress we are making, but how we got to this point.

When our process started, my wife wasn’t working hardly at all  (part time retail).  We made all the minimums, but not much more than that.  At best, we threw an additional $100 each month against the cards.  Then several things happened…  First off, we moved from a $750/month apartment to a $680/month apartment.  The added benefit to this was that it was about 10 miles closer to work for me, and it was a newer complex, with smaller square feet.  End result:  It was much cheaper to live there than in a larger, less efficient apartment further away.  Rather than adjusting our lifestyle up, we adjusted down.  Then, every time I got a raise or a bonus, We treated it as an opportunity to put more money against debt.  No major lifestyle changes were allowed.

One of the pitfalls we fell into along the way was when my wife got a full-time, but temporary, job making pretty good money.  We adjusted our lifestyle a little to allow for her working.  We had a weekly trip to Cracker Barrel on Saturday mornings, and we ate out at least one other time every week.  We bought a new TV, which was a GREAT deal, but it still slowed our progress.  We bought a new computer.  All of these things added up, not adding to our debt, but merely slowing our progress.  The amount of progress we are making now, we could have made back then, but we lacked the commitment.  We were committed to getting out of debt, as long as it didn’t hamper life in any way.

That changed earlier this year.  My dad passed away, and I saw the shortness of life, and how important it was for him to have spent his last few months with my brother, still at home, and my mom.  And what I saw was that, as long as I didn’t commit wholeheartedly to getting rid of my debt, I would be forever stuck in the cycle of paying on debt, and halfway living life.  I don’t want that for me, or for my wife, so the cycle had to stop.  Focus was what we needed, and intensity.

This blog has been one of the most important resources to keeping the intensity.  The fact that I have readers who watch our progress keeps me motivated to make progress.  My wife has been 100% behind me and continuously encourages me to keep intense and focused on eliminating our debt.

Those two factors are probably the reason why we are as far along as we are.

Over the next few months, given the recent news, I’m sure that our focus will shift.  One thing that will happen first, however, is that the American Express will get paid off.  As much progress as we’ve made on that card in the last two months, I think the biggest motivational move is to be completely done with it.  I would have liked to be completely out of credit card debt before a pregnancy, but we are very, very close to the end of it now.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Game-changer

This morning started as any other morning in our little apartment.  The cat napped around us, and then, at about 5 in the morning, decided it was time to wake us up.

My wife got up, and I followed soon after.  The thing that was different about this day was the positive result from the pregnancy test that she took.  We are going to have a baby!

Of course, she will take another test in about a week, just to be sure, but the tests are 99% right, and almost never show a false positive, apparently.  As well, there are several other indicators conveniently explained by pregnancy, so we both feel the test result is right.

This means that our current plan to pay off debt may change somewhat.  Of course, it is never a bad thing to pay off debt, but we don’t want to just return to the place we just came back from.  So I am in the process of thinking through what we will do, and what our plan will be.

Dave Ramsey’s plan would entail paying nothing but the minimums on everything, and immediately begin stockpiling cash.  I really believe this is a good plan, but I also really, really want to be done with the credit cards, so my current plan is to stick with paying the American Express off, and then re-evaluate from there.  We are only talking about a month from now before the AmEx is paid off anyway, and that should give us enough time to really think through what we should do.

All in all, not a bad week.  Anniversary, got the AmEx below $3,000, and found out we were going to have a baby.  Life’s not so bad…  :-P

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First Week of November Update

Well, the first week of November has hit, and our debt reduction wasn’t nearly as impressive as the second week of October, but we should see a much better second week due to the extra paychecks from our secondary job.

This week, we paid $480 against the American Express, but our bill came due as well, effectively cutting our progress to $463.39.

We started the month with a balance of $3,249.69, and we are now sitting at $2,786.30, leaving us with $1,636.61 left to pay to reach our goal.  We are still on tap for paying off the AmEx by the middle of December, and by next week’s update, our total debt will be under $45,000, meaning that we will have paid off over $33,000 in under 22 1/2 months.

I know that updates have been scarce lately, but time has been as well - as you can see, we are hitting our debt very hard, so free time is more of a luxury and not as available as either of us would like it to be.

We did end up spending some money over the weekend, since we had our second anniversary, but we had put money aside for it, and the two meals easily cost less than a trip would have.  We still spent less than $300, so all and all, we are happy with that.  Besides, we were ready for a break, and needed something to just go crazy on, without hurting our budget.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results

Google is attempting to provide a gadget that provides live updates on the election results…  Below are is the available chart, complete with Presidential, Senate, and House race viewing options, updated in real-time…

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Goals

As you know by now, my main concern is to get the American Express paid off by the end of the year.  December is always a more expensive month with all of the Christmas “extras” that come up, so I want to pay down as much of the AmEx as I can in the month of November.

I have cut down my availability at WalMart.  I’m just not able to keep up the pace, and am feeling continually tired and on the verge of collapse.  I will no longer be working on Saturdays, so that should give me some “recoup” time.  The flip side to this is that I will only be available to work one 8-hour shift per week, so I expect that my hours will drop, possibly even significantly.  With two paychecks in November, I don’t want to set the goal too high.  At the same time, my wife should have two (possibly three) paychecks from her second job as well, so that will help there.

We are back down to a 4-week month, so I am setting the goal to have debt paid off as following:

  • $600 from my primary job
  • $800 from my wife’s primary job
  • $300 from my secondary job
  • $400 from my wife’s secondary job

That means that our goal is to pay off $2,100 this month.  That will leave less than $1,200 for December, and should be easily dealt with, even with the added stress of the holidays.