Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


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Doing Better: Christina’s Story, Part 2

Christina Walker is Doing Better and this week she’s sharing the part two of who she’s re-writing her financial history and changing her family tree. Missed the first part of Christina’s Story? Check it out here.

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First steps to freedom

In 2007/2008 I got my head together again.  Thanks to some sage advice, I moved my money from a traditional bank to a credit union and sat down with a financial adviser to talk about cleaning up my credit and becoming debt free. In 2009, I met my husband David Walker Jr.  Early in our relationship, we talked about working jobs that we loved and having the financial freedom to change our family trees and travel the world.  We both had a mindset of not wanting to be in debt before we met each other so there wasn’t much fighting over money.  We did have one struggle that led to our decision to merge our separate bank accounts.  We once took a trip and it was a hassle trying to see who would pay for what and out of what bank account so shortly after we had to figure out a new and better system.  Today everything comes out of one account. It’s so much easier with tracking and accounting.  His money is mine and mine is his. We even have wiggle room in our budget for our own personal ‘blow’ money.

We then started reading books by Suze Orzman, Dave Ramsey, Robert Kiyosaki and other personal finance gurus to develop a strategy to become millionaires.  With the help of our friends, we projected our goals for the next five years. We jotted that information down in a notebook that we called our “Goal Book” and we have worked to meet those goals every year since.  But the major thing we did was put ourselves on a budget for a whole year and kept track of everything we spent money on.  By everything, I do mean EVERYTHING! We kept receipts for all purchases, small or big, for a whole year so we could see exactly where our money was going. Each receipt was kept in its own envelope and in categories which helped a lot with our taxes and our knowing where we spent too much so we could ultimately cut back.

Mine + Yours = OURS

246589_4070503641194_1466817754_nDavid came with his own baggage but not much. He had student loans, bills and a car that just broke down on him. But he  lived in a family house that was paid for and didn’t use credit cards anymore.   So most of his overdue bills were small things like a doctor’s bill, which was  easily payable.  But since the universe likes to make things interesting, he got laid off and my car broke down, forcing us to shop for a new/used car.  Now, I was strapped with a car note again.

But we were determined and we loved each other very much. We also both really wanted to see each other be successful.   So with the help of our credit union, lots of financial books and reading financial blogs, we devised a strategy.   We wrote down every debt we owned, from smallest to largest, and decided to do a debt snowball. We redoubled our efforts to cut down on unnecessary spending and put any leftover money we had each month toward bills.  David worked really hard to get back in school and to find employment.  I worked two jobs at one point to pay down bills. He’s now working two jobs to pay down bills while I take a break.

Real sacrifice, real reward

There have been a ton of tough moments.  When we first started all of this, we stopped socializing when the events 228166_10150203044152720_5542172_nrequired us to come out of pocket.  Now, we can afford to eat out and go on trips but that’s not what our goals entail.  Our goals require us to be frugal and sacrifice so that we could do the things we want to do later. Once a friend of ours said when we declined yet another invite,  “Y’all ain’t broke. Why don’t you come hang out?” We stuck to our guns.   In our minds, we were broke.  Not poor.  Being broke, for us, meant we had bills to pay off and life ahead of us.  It mattered that we stop spending thousands of dollars on trips every year or eating out for every occasion or having a lavish wedding.

We paid cash for our wedding.  We only had 20 people in attendance because that’s all we could afford.   People were upset, especially family, but no one offered to pay for a bigger wedding so we made due with what we had.   It was better than we expected and it was classy.   We are always complimented on our wedding photos and we’ve even had friends use some of our ideas to plan their own small, inexpensive weddings.

Paying it forward

Throughout the entire process, I have encouraged my friends and family to jump on the “freedom bandwagon” many times. Some got really excited and started their own plan and some didn’t.   In the end some relationships fell to the wayside because it was either their time to end, or maybe we differed on how David and I were now living our lives.  But we were serious when it came to being financially sound and we wanted to make sure our lives reflected the walk we were talking.

Some of the best moments so far have been paying off our new $18,000 truck — yes, it was too high but we needed a truck to carry around our two dogs and other equipment. It took us less than three years to pay it off because we paid bi-weekly and made extra payments for two years. All of that culminated in us being able to make a final $5000 cash payment to pay the sucker off.  We got David’s student loans out of default and paid back my four 401(k) loans. We  paid off an old overdue but significantly high energy bill from David’s family house, paid off all credit card debt, increased our credit scores by 100-plus points and reduced the interest rate on my loft from 6% to 4%.

Envisioning a beautiful future

382994_10150416391337720_776731016_nSince 2009 we’ve paid off  a little over $67,000  in consumer debt.  That may not seem like much and we still have a ways to go, but  it’s been cash since then and we’re completely free from a lot of the burdens we use to have. Having  each other first and foremost as accountability partners helps a lot. Writing down our goals in our notebook and creating a vision board also keep us motivated.   We know that ultimately we want to open our own business and have children, and we want to make sure we are financially ready to do those things before making those big leaps.  So the beautiful future we envision keeps the fire going…

Want to know Christina’s secret to slaying debt and saving for the future? Check out the last installment of her story next week!


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Food For thought Friday: Burn, Baby, Burn!

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Dear Bank of America Loan ending in 7919,

You started out as a means to an end, but became so much more.

You were supposed to be my debt consolidation ticket to the good life, instead, like an idiot,  I was seduced into making you my constant companion.

You’ve followed me (stalked me) from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Sarasota, Fla., to Anniston, Ala., Montgomery, Ala., and to Alexandria, Va. dragging me down to a point where I never thought I would be free, but today I am free.

Like a demon, temporarily cast out, you came back not only stronger but with equally strong friends.

But today, we’re breaking up. And this time it’s for good. I can’t say I’m sorry to see you go because it really is you.  It’s no longer me.

Deuces,

Ricks

P.S. I’ll be showing your friend Discover card the door sooner then he thinks.  Tell him, raising my credit limit is not even the least bit tempting. I look forward to giving him a two finger salute next year. Peace!  :: singing::  “It’s over. I’m leavin’.”


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Operation Do Better: First Quarter Wrap Up

Ninety days of surviving and thriving on the Operation Do Better spending pause train is cause for celebration and nobody gets down like Bro. Franklin Na Wa. Press play. We promise it will bless you real good.

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” — Melchizedek, The Alchemist

Because of our willingness to do better, the universe has been beyond generous. It has sent us a community of support and it has given us all manner of free stuff including treating us to a Sunday brunch, giving us fried chicken, gym equipment, discounted trail shoes and a fully stocked bar. We are grateful and we will continue to pay it forward.

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Ricks reflections…

The Good: I paid off a bill! I am one payment away from paying off another! There is money in my emergency fund! I paid for my trip to NYC with money I saved! There is still money in my travel fund! I am even more motivated to tackle my next debt! *insert cabbage patch, running man and da butt here*

The Bad: I might need a root canal re-treatment, and I’m not sure if my insurance is going to cover the whole thing.

The Ugly: There is a high likelihood that my vintage vehicle is dead, unless I make expensive repairs to revive it one more time.

Life happens. Did I know this dead car thing was going to happen one day? Of course I did. Did I plan appropriately for that day? Nope. The old me would have dove head first into debt and got another car, but guess which thrifty chick is riding the bus? *raises hand* When I think about what I can save in gas, car repairs, insurance and inspections, I am tempted to donate this sucker just for the tax write off. Life happens on vacation. Reese and I thought we were going to be the queens of good times and frugality on our NYC trip and for the most part we were, but gosh darn it, we saved money for that trip and we spent it. And we still managed to save money in each of our pots of savings and pay the extra money we intended. No harm, no foul. Struggle happens. In another life, these big ticket problems would have caused me to lose my head, lose my focus. But having an accountability partner, who has willingly invested in my future’s future, and a supportive community keeps the fire burning.  As fired up as I am about paying off my next debt, it’s bigger and the interest rate is criminally high, so I am trying to be honest with myself about how long it is going to take to pay it.  I’m going to have to remember to celebrate along the way.

Going forward: Because I’m so driven to pay this last credit card off, I’m continuing on the spending pause for the rest of the year. O_O! Yeah, I said it. But of course with slight modifications. I am still allowed to replace things sparingly. Rather than an allowance, I am allowed to plan for one thing such as a brunch with friends, or a Mother’s Day treat for my mom, my aunts and my grandmother within the context of my budget. I am allowed a reward of my choosing when I save a certain amount of money, or pay off a certain amount of this particular debt. But I will still take my lunch every day and eat at home nearly every night.

Reese’s reflections…

The Good: Who paid off 2k in credit card debt in six weeks? ::points at self:: This thrifty chick. And who’s paying the last payment on her one and only credit card bill next week? ::points at self:: Me again! Who has reached 40% of her savings goal for the first half of the year? You guessed it…ME!!! I guess this is the financial manifestation of giving up Chipotle and fancy cheese everyday….and I am sooooo OK with all of this!

The Bad: My current fellowship ends in a month, and I’m waiting to hear about the one I applied for in November. I should hear back this week or next week. I started doubting if  I made the right choice to pay off the credit card, because that is extra money I could have saved. I was really stressed about it at first, but then I had to stop and think about all I’ve been blessed with. I sent this message to our ODB community on Friday:

Yesterday as I drove, I felt compelled to give thanks for the financial blessings bestowed on me during the last four years of my PhD pursuit. In a week or two, my finances will change and there has been a great deal of anxiety about that. But I’m reminded that I survived the first year of my program w/more bills than I have now on a 19K fellowship + babysitting on the side. Then, I was blessed w/a fellowship worth way more than the first with less responsibilities for three years. On two different occasions, friends felt compelled to send $$$ to me in the mail in support of this PhD pursuit. A year ago I received a check unexpectedly from my car finance company for a service charged I’d been paying for two years that I wasn’t supposed to pay. Two years ago I got a year long fellowship that supported my training in public health…I’ve had great luck with families to babysit for to make extra money on the side. I am extremely grateful for the great friendship that was built that led to this current roommate situation that has allowed me to save money in preparation for these upcoming changes. All of these blessings and more remind me that 1) I’ve never been left or forsaken, 2) I’ve always had necessary provisions–even when I was stupid with money 3) I know better, so I’ve done better…that will work in my favor 4) Thanks to ODB, I don’t have to rush to plan for anything, I can wait to hear the next fellowship decision and then take the next step. I can feasibly live through September or longer w/the money I have saved + babysitting (praises!!). I have no reason to be scared. I have what I need, and what I may need in the future will take care of itself. Besides, who among us by worrying can add a single hour to her life?

….and then guess what?

Praises: I received a call today that I have been offered a senior research position I applied for a couple months ago. You see how this works? Worrying didn’t add anything to my life, but opening up space for praise and thanks did….and now i have a job offer on the table. ::bustin’ a Bro. Franklin move::

dancing like Bro. Franklin

dancing like Bro. Franklin

Going forward: Assuming everything is kosher with the offer, I’ll start a new job soon! Yeah!!! Credit will be paid off this month, and then I will tackle the little bit of student loan debt I have. Guess who has plans to be completely debt free by the end of next year? You guessed it? Me! I too am doing the spending pause for the rest of the year. Why not? I haven’t missed out on anything. I still have good health, great friends, and it doesn’t hurt that Ricks and I are pretty amazing cooks. Plus, we started this together, and it’s really important to me that we finish this process…together. I’ve made plans for the trips I need to take this year and this month I’ll buy sewing supplies so I can FINALLY do some of the DIY projects I have lined up. I’ll deal with other things as they come along, but for now, I have no plans for an allowance or anything like that. I’m kinda diggin’ the at home spa treatments and happy hours.

Lessons learned/Affirmations: I can live without a lot (even Chipotle).  Support makes a world of difference. Our friends love us enough to come hang out at our house instead of going out to spend money. I truly do love the simple things in life, and this spending pause has lovingly brought me back to that. When you free up your resources, you can rediscover the joy of giving. The universe provides. Not a single thing is solved by worrying.

We’ll leave you with the words this post began with:

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it

Thank you, universe for helping us achieve our goals.

R&R


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Single Parenthood on a Budget

Guest Contributor: Tosha Allen

I’m a single parent raising a 12-year-old daughter, Taylin, who is active in softball and concert band.  When I decided to join “Operation Do Better,” I had to tailor my break from spending to accommodate Taylin’s needs. I first discussed this idea with her in early December over dinner (we love sushi). I informed her that if we were going to Disneyland in December 2013 for her 13th birthday, we needed to cut back and start saving A LOT! Taylin actually agreed, mainly because she really wants to go to Disneyland, and she’s really concerned about our finances.image_1359728611991731

I informed her that since I am the only working person in our household, we really needed to reign in our spending. Taylin understands that being a single parent is difficult. She was 10-years-old when her father and I divorced, so she has seen a big shift in our household. We went from having two incomes to only one. I want to show her that life sometimes deals you a bad hand, but you have to continue to smile and work hard.

As a single parent, I know there are some things I can’t cut out. For example, Taylin has to eat breakfast at school because of time constraints (school starts at 7:30 and her ride comes at 6:45), which costs $1 a day. She does take her lunch, so we don’t have that additional expense. We’re not cutting out sports or band (that includes her instrument). She’s played softball since she was 4 and loves it. Band is also an important part of her education as it helps her with following directions and concentration.

Despite the constraints, we cut our biggest splurges: eating out and shopping. Before Operation Do Better, we spent about $150 a month on eating out and shopping. Taylin knows this means no going out to eat at all for three months (unless it can’t be avoided when I have to go out of town for business). She was a bit concerned because we usually go out for Sunday breakfast, but I had a solution.

I recently started cooking more and decided we would still get our Sunday morning breakfast in…I would just cook it. Taylin was excited about this!  She helps in the kitchen sometimes and especially loves pizza and fried chicken. 🙂  As far as shopping, neither of us will be getting new clothes or shoes in the next three months (with exception of a new pair of softball cleats). After three months, I plan to evaluate our savings and then proceed from there. I hope this helps any single parents interested in significantly reducing their spending.

All in all, I believe this spending cutback is good for us both. It is teaching us that there are things that we just don’t NEED! I will also be able to see actual savings. Both my daughter and I are doing the 52 week savings plan and it is going very well. It started with just a dollar, and each week we add a dollar to the amount that goes into the savings. If (when) we stick to it, each of us will have saved $1378!

For any single parent interested in revamping your finances, my advice is try not to get caught up in giving your children EVERYTHING!!! My daughter is a typical preteen. She wants a lot of stuff, but she already has too much! To stay balanced, I focus more on her needs, and I try to give her some of her wants. Being a single parent and trying to save is hard, but it is not impossible.


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Tidbit Tuesday: Cynthia D. Talks Student Loan Rehabilitation

Guest Contributor: Cynthia Dorrough

As an impressionable 20-something, I didn’t heed the small print on the promissory note or the spiel in the loan exit interview that is required by the Department of Education (DOE). I made the gross assumption of thinking “I’ll deal with these loans when I deal with them.” They stopped calling and sending letters to the house, so everything was alright…right?? As Charlie Murphy would say, WRONG!! WRONG! I defaulted on my loans.485982_10151439416772774_2100952392_n

When you default on your student loans, each semester’s loan is broken out on your credit report. So, 8 semesters of school equaled 8 negative trade lines. In addition, the government adds a 20% collection fee to your student loan balance when you default. A daunting situation.

I pretty much lost all faith in having some form of a decent life and figured that even though there is no such thing as a debtor’s prison, my poor credit score had me in shackles. But I decided not to wallow. I put on my big girl panties and contacted the DOE. A nice representative named Eric pulled up my account, and I asked him about the loan rehabilitation program. Here are the steps I took and some advice for anyone who is in the same situation:

  1. Be Proactive: Contact the Department of Education (don’t be afraid, they won’t bite) and they will transfer you to their collection agency. The Department of Education outsources their collections to a 3rd party collection agency, so you may not deal directly with DOE.
  2. Be Specific: Tell them you are interested in rehabilitating your student loan and you are looking for “reasonable and affordable” monthly payment. Please remember to use those two words. For some reason those words are magic. The Student Loan Rehabilitation Program allows you to make a minimum of nine (9) consecutive, on-time payments to bring your loan back to current status. They will come up with an amount based upon the amount you owe. Typically, your payment will be around 1% of your loan balance or it will at least cover the monthly interest amount associated with your loan.
  3. Set Up Payments: Once you receive your schedule and amount to pay, you can either do automatic debit or call in and make the payment. Please keep in mind, you will not receive paperwork when you enter the loan rehabilitation program because of the promissory note. However terms of the rehabilitation are outlined in the Higher Education Act. I wouldn’t give a collection agency my primary bank account information. I had a separate account at a different bank that I used for my student loan rehabilitation or you may be able to use one of those reloadable credit/debit cards or an Internet Banking account and they would draft the money from the account. Note: A word to the wise, as stated above, the Student Loan rehabilitation program consists of you making nine consecutive on-time payments and they will send you a letter in the mail informing you that your loans are in current status after the 9th payment has posted. That is one of the only times you will receive something in the mail addressing your loan rehabilitation. Wait until you receive your letter before you decide to be late or think that because you made 9 payments, you are through.
  4. Follow Up: Stay on them and I would call and check in periodically to make sure we were on the same page, especially when you are approaching that ninth payment.

Remember that nasty 20% collection fee that I mentioned that the DOE tacks on when you default? It goes away when you rehabilitate your student loans! Whoo Hoo!  Another good thing is the trade line will still have the original date in which you took out the loan which means that debt is seasoned, giving you a longer credit history. I usually tell people to rehab your loans first if you are in default rather than consolidate because they will consolidate that extra 20% collection fee into your loans, which you don’t want to do. It may be a sacrifice for those 9-10 months, but your principal will be lower.

That is my story on my road to redemption. One lesson I learned is things will get a lot worse before they get better when you ignore things. The Department of Education is not trying to shame you or place you in the gallows.  They will work with you as long as you are proactive.


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Tidbit Tuesday: 50 Ways to Spend Smart

Refraining from spending money ain’t easy and what you do after a period of abstaining from something can make you feel like it was all a big waste of time. The reality is when most people finish a fast — whether abstaining from eating, spending or even watching too much TV — they often binge on the the thing that they gave up if they don’t give it up forever, make it a habit, or devise a management strategy.

We don’t want that to happen to us or to you during Operation Do Better. When we get our allowances back, we want to spend. And if we spend, we want to  spend wisely.

We’ve come up with 50 ways to continue to be conscious savers and spenders:

  1. Taking a trip? Book a megabus ticket and stay with friends instead of flying and staying in a hotel.
  2. Cook at least enough for dinner and lunch the next day.
  3. Pack your lunch the night before. This protects you against that inevitable “I’m running late and don’t have time to pick my lunch.”
  4. Take public transportation more and drive less….ESPECIALLY if you’re in a city with excellent public transportation.
  5. At home mani/pedis
  6. Become good at doing your own hair. Ricks had been doing her own hair since she went natural nearly  six years ago, and Reese has given up hair color which is the only thing she regularly went to a salon for. YouTube and blogs are super helpful. And remember: if you mess up, it’s ok. It’s hair. It grows back.
  7. Brazilian waxes are amazing….but they’re expensive. Ditch ’em. Shave.
  8. Eat at home before going out with friends. If they must go and you don’t want to leave have dessert instead.
  9. Drink at home. Depending on the wine, you can get a bottle for the same/similar cost of a glass or two at a bar.
  10. Bust out the iron and some Magic sizing instead of dry cleaning so much (*deep sigh* We both hate ironing).
  11. Get a library card for free books and DVDs.
  12. Take your money out of banks that charge too many fees.
  13. Ask for reduced interest rates on credit cards.
  14. Learn how to clip, use, and save with coupons.
  15. Sign up for free classes at REI or other local stores/companies that offer freebies.
  16. Checkout all the Smithsonian Museums! They’re free.
  17. Instead of immediately buying new things, check with friends and family to see if anyone wants to swap clothes or goods.
  18. If you’re not big on cooking or don’t have as much time, partner with a friend or a neighborhood to do a cooking-share.
  19. Got an instrument you haven’t played in a while? A cheap hobby you’ve let fall to the wayside? Pick them up in your spare time to reduce the urge to go out to the mall or a restaurant.
  20. When shopping for groceries, try the cheapest brands FIRST. If you don’t like them, you can always try something else on the next trip. But if you do like them, you’ve reduced the temptation of falling in love with a more expensive brand.
  21. Give homemade gifts.
  22. Grow your own herbs. They’re easy to grow and maintain, especially in small spaces.
  23. If you have a car, clean it yourself rather than taking it to a car wash or detailer.
  24. Get rid of Living Social and Groupon. Unless you’re a really disciplined person, these discount sites can really bite you in the butt. Most people load up on too many deals and never use them. If you use these sites, set limits on how many deals you can buy.
  25. Use cash. We notice that if we only take cash to the store, we’re more likely to think about what we’re spending. Debit and credit cards are nice, but they encourage overspending because of how easy they are to use.
  26. Cancel memberships and subscriptions you don’t use or need.
  27. When you buy perishable items, make several meals out of them so they won’t go bad.
  28. If you’re having trouble with late fees, set up automated payments to avoid wasting the money and write down on a calendar when you expect a payment to come out of your account and subtract the amount in your check register to ensure that you don’t spend it.
  29. Old t-shirts make great cleaning rags. This can help reduce the amount of disposable waste like paper towels.
  30. Be honest with your friends/family about your budget. If they’re not supportive, they’re probably not people you want to hang with regularly anyway. ::shrugs::
  31. Learn the basics of using a needle and thread to mend your own clothes.
  32. We both enjoy cooking, but we know there are days when we’re lazy and would rather have chipotle. Make sure you have some easy meals on hand that won’t require too much prep or cook time. This minimizes the temptation to go to Chipotle.
  33. Keep a record of your grocery spending. We spent $81 bucks on our last big grocery shop, but we know we can spend less. We wrote the total on a wipe board to remind us that we’re trying to reduce that number.
  34. If you’re giving yourself the freedom to see movies or shows, try to get tickets to the matinee showing. And look for free tickets for advance showings.
  35. Get over Starbucks. It’s expensive, and it’s not that good anyway (that’s what we tell ourselves).
  36. Volunteer at shelters or soup kitchens. There’s something about seeing people in times of distress that remind you to be giving and grateful for what you have.
  37. Crockpots are the bomb.com. Use it often to make cheap meals that stretch over multiple days.
  38. Plan a weekly menu. We plan to do a “big cook” every Sunday where we prepare meals that are more time consuming. We also include a couple quick meals each week that wont require more than 30-45min to prepare.
  39. There are tons of inexpensive ways to make your own beauty products, if you choose. Pure Skin has great recipes for body scrubs, etc. Check it out from your library.
  40. Search meetup.com for opportunities to find free events or activities that you might be interested in.
  41. Look into your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) options. Sometimes, it is much cheaper than buying fresh produce in the grocery store. But do your research!! Not all CSAs are affordable or well-run.
  42. Unsubscribe from the mailing lists of your favorite stores. I swear Forever 21, City Sports, and Under Armour were out to get us! Had to let them go.
  43. Use Google Reader, or some other RSS feed service, to keep track of blogs that help you stay motivated to save and spend less. It’s a simple way to sort through blog posts that will be help you manage time on your daily grind.  If you need help setting it up, let’s us know. We both use it for professional and personal purposes.
  44. Declutter. If you know what you have, you’re less likely to buy duplicates.
  45. Take an inventory of the cupboards and fridge before going to the grocery store to know exactly how much stuff is already there.
  46. Shop in bulk….if it makes sense for your household. Buying in bulk isn’t always cost effective. Find out what is and only buy those things.
  47. Set up automatic deposits into a savings account.
  48. If traveling and need to stay at a hotel, rent a car, etc., try Hotwire. Sure, you don’t know what you’ll get ahead of time, but you can save up to 80% per transaction.
  49. Set up some type of financial tools and use them. Check them weekly to see where your money went. Reese set an alert on her calendar to check her mint.com account every Sunday. Ricks gets a weekly summary from Mint.com
  50. This is the BIG ONE: continuously work on changing your mindset. You’re not depriving yourself. You’re living within your means.

We started a Facebook group for people who are serious about getting rid of debt, spending wisely, and saving more. If you’re interested in joining it, send us an email or let us know through our Facebook fan page!

Until next time,

R&R


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Food for Thought Friday: Operation Do Better

A new year brings new challenges and goals for many, including the thrifty duo. A few weeks ago we began talking about And Then We Saved Blogger Anna Newell Jones’ , Spending Fast , which helped her pay off $23,000 in debt, and the Spending Diet, which is a modified version of the fast, that helps her spend sensibly after she completed the fast.

The overall concept is simple: only buy what you need, cut out all the things you want. Fast for a weekend or a year, but do it until you reach your goal. No budgets. No cash envelopes marked food, entertainment, thrift store, etc. No reason not to do this!

We love this idea and this week we really committed to it: developing our individual plans, writing down our wants vs. needs and solidifying our end goals. We”ll even say we are excited about this whole thing, despite the fact that we’re giving up some things we’re used to having (like Chipotle 3-4 times a week…yikes!).

We’ve decided to take Anna Newell Jones’ Debt Free Life Pledge and making our financial goals a reality, with some personal modifications of course.

Ricks’ Operation Do Better Plan

The Rundown. I’m going to hit the pause button on spending for 3 months and an upcoming trip to the Big Apple will be my reward for sticking to it. My expectation is that one or two of my bills will be paid off in the next three months. If I’m not happy with my progress in the first three months, or just loving the results, I will reevaluate whether to continue the fast for another three months. If I am happy with my progress, I will switch to a monthly allowance of $100 for wants.

How I’ll Attack My Debt. While Anna Newell Jones (and many other financial gurus) recommend paying off high interest debt first, I prefer the Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball method of paying the lowest balance first and then the highest balance. My interest rates are about the same on my three credit cards, but only one of the balances is high. After I pay off the two smaller balances I will add what I had been paying those two creditors to what I have been paying the third creditor, creating a snowball effect that pays off that bigger balance faster.

The End Game. Paying off debt is my focus, but saving money is too. Any money leftover from my paycheck that might have gone to wants in the past will go straight into savings. The same will be true once I switch to the monthly allowance. I’m almost certain I will return to my spending pause for the last 3 months of the year because of the big reward that we will talk about at a later date.

Ricks’ Needs

  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Cellphone
  • Doctor’s co-pays
  • Renters insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Car maintenance and inspection
  • Medicine
  • Personal hygiene

Ricks’ Wants

  • Eating out. Goodbye Chipotle and Metro 29 Diner. Hello Kitchen
  • Giving gifts, except for cards
  • Fancy running gear
  • Books, electronic or otherwise. Did somebody say library cards were still free?
  • Driving daily.
  • Movies and theater
  • Dry cleaning
  • New camera <—- *crying real tears over this one*
  • New clothes and shoes
  • Thrifted clothes, shoes and furniture
  • New music
  • Groupon and other deals
  • Professional hair removal
  • Mani/pedis
  • New cosmetics
  • Perfume

Ricks’ Exceptions

So this is where the modified part comes in. We’re both runners who do a handful of races each year. For me the races are what I need to keep me running and since I don’t have a gym membership, I’ve got to keep moving. Money will be spent on race fees. Running shoes and gear will have to be replaced. But they won’t be replaced until they are worn out. We also will purchase tickets for planned travel as necessary since purchasing them as early as possible typically saves money.  We also won’t be giving up our Direct TV because the idea is not to create any new bills and it’s a shared luxury.

Since we thrift, dry cleaning often is a necessity, but I can’t lie sometimes I dry clean to avoid ironing. This stops today. Thrifting, the lifeblood of this blog will be curtailed a bit. But don’t fret lovelies, we can power this blog with what’s in our two closets probably for the next three years.  And we share very well. Besides we’ll still thrift, but for me, I’ll do so modestly and on steep discount days! As for new retail undergarments, socks and swimwear will be the only new retail this year and only on an as needed basis.

Reese’s Spending Plan. I am fortunate to not have a ton of debt. I have a couple bills I want to pay off in 2013, but the majority of focus is going towards savings. Being a PhD-in-training has its perks, but the unpredictable job market is not one of them. To be prepared for the unfortunate possibility of being jobless or underemployed once I’m done with this degree, I’m putting most of my energy towards building up a super-duper-emergency fund that will hopefully keep me from having to work at McDonalds. I’ll join Ricks for the three month spending pause, mainly because I spend way too much money eating out. I think three months is a great amount of time to redirect my attention toward cooking more. During these first three months, I will have saved (already claiming it) a quick $2,000 and paid off 60% of the debt I intend to be rid of my the end of May 2013. Why this method? It is really really important to me to immediately build my savings. I’ve seen too many people hit rock bottom after a major emergency, and I am trying to be proactive against that. After the three months, I will give myself a $50/wk allowance for happy hours, eating out, etc.

Reese’s Wants (aka the things I’m giving up)

  • Eating out (especially chipotle, smh.)
  • Cupcakes from Best Buns 😦
  • Candy in the grocery store aisles
  • Random target goodies
  • Fancy tea from Teavana
  • Movies
  • Hair cuts
  • Hair color
  • Tattoos
  • Groupon/Living Social deals with friends
  • Thrift store purchases (example: more blouses that I don’t need)
  • Trail running shoes
  • Purchasing New Books
  • Mani/pedis
  • Spur of the moment trips
  • Happy hours
  • Races
  • Concert/Shows
  • New warby parker glasses

Reese’s Needs

  • Rent/Utilities (need a warm place to live, right?)
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Maintenance
  • Gasoline
  • Personal Hygiene Stuff
  • Groceries (using coupons, compromising on brands when possible)
  • Cell phone

Reese’s Exceptions. Eyebrow threading: I cannot shape my own eyebrows for the life of me. Seriously, I’ve tried and I always look a hot mess, so I’m allowing this exception so that I won’t look like I’m going through hard times. Academic conferences: As a PhD student, these conferences are pretty much non-negotiable. I have selected four conferences to attend this year and have tentatively budgeted accordingly for each of them. Research expenses: Again, I’m a PhD student. I have research expenses that aren’t covered by my department, so I have to be prepared to handle them when they arise. Workout/running stuff: I don’t have a gym membership, so working out at home + running are essential parts of my health and sanity. At some point, I’ll have to buy new running shoes and more weights. Wine: well, I don’t have anything to say about this. It might be a want for you, but in this household, it’s a necessity. ::shrugs::

So there you have it folks. We’ve put our plan out there for you all. We hope you’ll ask questions, cheer us on, and try something like this yourself. Part of our thrifty philosophy has always been about recycling and reducing the amount of stuff in the world. In our minds, this is just an extension of that. The goal isn’t to be ridiculously wealthy. The goal is to be more responsible with spending and more thoughtful and creative with how we spend our time without spending tons of dough.

We’ll post about our successes, failures, and frustrations in the coming weeks. Our prayer is that our transparency will hold us accountable and inspire you!

-R&R