Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Road to Financial Peace

Budgeting. It's something that strikes fear into the hearts of many or is something we aim to do, but always put off until we have more money. Ironically, the lack of budget is usually what prevents us from having money in the first place.

Three years ago the boy and I began our marriage with a plan to set a budget. Then the boy lost his job. Then the car needed work. Then my student loans came due. Then I went back to school. A job loss or two more and more student loans and we soon found ourselves in the position so many Americans do: the race to keep up, living paycheck to paycheck. And not knowing where our paychecks were going in the first place.

The one blessing that has come out of this last week is the two of us sat down with all of our bills, our paychecks, and a calculator. We wrote down every bill - its average cost if it fluctuates - and what day it is due. We also broke down bills, like our car insurance which we pay every six months, to a month-to-month rate. We totaled everything and held our breath. To our great surprise, our net was much larger than we thought it was. (Three times what I thought it was, actually.)

After determining our net, we budgeted every cent for food, car payment (the Cavalier is paid off, but we plan on replacing it since it is not running safely now and costs more to repair than replace), gas, cat care, and savings.

We have watched two friends pay off debt greater than ours in two or three years, so we knew it was possible, but didn't realize how possible it really was. Honestly, we were so blinded by our debt we couldn't see clearly to make a plan. The car disaster gave us the motivation we needed to stop complaining and take control of our financial situation.

Our future is looking much brighter. Yes, there will be cutbacks. We don't have an entertainment budget for at least three months, which will be difficult, but three months to get ahead is not so very long. As Dave Ramsey says on the bottom of every page in his book, "If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else."

We're starting our journey to financial peace and this first step is very freeing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Curse You Car!

You know those days when you wake up and know immediately you should stay in bed? Today was one of those days.

My morning started out like this:
  • Took a cold shower as our water heater will only allow one person to have a hot shower, no matter how short the first shower was.
  • Drove the DH to work and barely got him there in time - his morning started out worse than mine.
  • Left the boy at work after asking if the car was going to get me to work okay since it was making burnt rubber smells. The boy assured me it would. That was a lie.
Approximately 10 minutes after leaving the boy, the car started smoking. I was distracted by the fact I could see my breath in the car, so it took a moment to realize not only could I see my breath, but I could see the car's breath as well. And it did not look healthy.

Five minutes after that I was on Scholls Ferry (on a hill, of course) when I hit the gas and the car did not shoot forward. So I hit the gas harder after confirming I was indeed in Drive while a little voice in the back of my mind said that may not be a good idea. (I didn't think I had parked it, but one never knows.) Never fear little voice, I did not slam into the back of the van in front of me.

The car was dead. As in would-not-start-dead. And I was not in the right hand lane which would have made pushing the car over easier. So, I did what most girl's have a bad day would do. I started shaking and then begged the car to start.

Begrudgingly, it did. Out of respect for its moodiness, I moved over into the right hand lane and realized I wasn't even halfway home, so there was no way I was going to risk driving all the way in to work. With a lot of whining from the car, I made it into my driveway. Still shaking. I called the DH, who did not answer and told him the car died on me and today was not a good day to not answer his phone. I then proceeded to call a coworker and ask if she could get me and then called my boss who said they could come pick me up on their way back from a meeting up the road from my house. At 11:30.

The boy called back and asked me to put more water in the car and then take it over to the radiator place up the road. I was not real excited about getting back in the car so soon - or ever - but I obliged and then had a lovely mile walk home while talking to a dear friend.

Now I am back in my work clothes - walking a mile in slacks and high heels that slip off my feet was just asking for trouble, so I changed into jeans and walking shoes - a bit sweaty, irritated, but no less worn and I still have about 40 minutes before I will try Go-to-Work Round 2. In someone else's car.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goodbye, Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the spirit. I love the snow (which unfortunately causes much chaos in the Portland Metro area). I love trees, ornaments, presents, and eggnog. Today I went snowshoeing with some of the Monday Night Posse crew and was informed the holidays were over. This makes me a little sad. So here is my quick tribute to the 2009 Thanksgiving and Christmas season, as due to unforseen circumstances, I don't have pictures of the 1st Snowshoe Hike of the season. Oops.
Cook/Henshaw Cousins with Children & Significant Others
Thanksgiving, Santa Rosa, CA

Thanksgiving Revisited
December 4, 2009 - Bentley Chateau

Claire just might be the original Grinch, "Yay. I haz moovees."

Bentleys, Christmas 2009
(Not Jason's favorite Christmas idea. I love it, though.)

Santa visits the California Bentleys. Not the most flattering pictures, but my sweater did win the Ugly Sweater Contest. The picture does not do justice to its ugliness.

Yeah, it was a pretty good season.