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And the survey says ....

January 14th, 2007 at 03:58 pm

Here are my finances. This is very hard for me to do. I know many of you will gasp and thank the good Lord you aren't in my shoes but in all honesty it was very easy to get here. A good chunk of this is hospital bills. My daughter has cleft lip and palate and I had breast cancer with a bilateral mastectomy in 2002. When times were hard I was charging groceries and gas and well, here we are. I do not spend money on frivolous things. We are cutting the cable (I need the internet for job #2 which I'll be starting soon and also eBay) and the boys are trying to find jobs and they will take over their phone bills.


Bill Balance Payment
Mortgage (186,000) $1,402
Electric 168
Water 75
Car (6,266) 192
Comcast (TV) 51
Comcast (internet) 50
Boys Phones 100
My phone 73
Gasoline 220
Groceries 540
Doctor bills (270) 50
Life Insurance 33
BOA #1 (1,408) 34
BOA #2 (22,388) 446
Chase (900) 35
CapOne (9,836) 196
Tithe 45
Boys Youth Group 18
Boys Lunch Money 80

Totals 3,808

Income:
Main Job 2,160
Child Support 335
Total 2,495


Notes:
1)Mortgage is interest only and includes tax and insurance.
2)Electric is an average of low use and high use months. We haven't had the a/c on since probably about September.
3)My car is a 2001 minivan.
4)Comcast TV is going
5)Boys are very active with school and church and now they are trying to get jobs. I need to be able to track them down so they need phones but I think I can add them to my plan and save us about $100 a month. (We don't have a land line)
6)Gasoline is high because I'm in sales and on the road all day, every day.
7)Groceries include everything (toilet paper, laundry detergent, pet food, deodorant, toothpaste ...) I can trim this down drastically as I saw this week. I think I can trim at least 200 a month off of this.

These changes would bring my new monthly total to $3,484. With a $100 a month increase in child support (which I'm trying to get)and a second job I think I can do it! If I get a renter I may even be able to pay down some of those credit cards; which is my goal.

Okay everyone ... have at me, but be gentle ... please.

11 Responses to “And the survey says ....”

  1. scfr Says:

    Welcome to the site! Congratulations on taking a really big first step by writing everything down to see where you are. And it's very brave of you to open yourself up for suggestions from this very opinionated gang.

    I have a couple questions:
    1. Am I correct in assuming you are you focused on paying down debt, and not saving anything at this time? [No emergency fund, retirement, or college savings?]
    2. On the credit cards, are the amounts you wrote the minimum monthly payments? Also, are you continuing to use the cards or are you paying cash for everything?
    3. Is some of the gasoline cost reimbursed by your company? Do you get a mileage allowance?

    And the following questions are to see if you overlooked any expenses:
    4. Does the car amount include car insurance? And your annual license fees?
    5. Are you paying anything for your daughter's college?
    6. Are there incidental expenses you may need to include, such as clothing (your boys are growing), haircuts, dry cleaning, gifts, sports or club fees for the boys, home maintenance, entertainment, dentist or vet bills?

    Once again, welcome aboard! I'm sure there will be no shortage of suggestions.





  2. baselle Says:

    I promise to be gentle!

    Its good that you hate Chase so much - that'll be the first credit card that I would go for and try and pay down. I had three cards and about 15K to pay off 4 years ago. I went for the bitty one first, because you need the lift that you'll get when you pay it off.

    Just a few plans and thoughts, hopefully things that you haven't thought of...

    Mortgage - That include mortgage insurance? How close are you to the magic 20% equity? That'll be another great goal, after credit cards and medical to get rid of that!
    Electric - might want to search for particular vampire appliances that really suck up energy. Electronic device in particular are infamous for that. There's a little device that fern - Wild Blue Yonder - blogged about that you can use to figure out how much juice your appliances draw. If there's one that you can unplug, not just turn off, when not in use (not the refrigerator, heh heh), that will help.
    Phone & Internet - any way you can find out whether bundling the two together can help, or do you need all three? Notice that you have everything at Comcast.
    Gasoline - Do you have a circuit route or do you make your sales calls on the fly? Hopefully your wheels are tuned up, tires properly filled, driving style appropriate, etc. Check out Gasbuddy.com at some of the places that you know you'll be going to see if you can drive to your deal.
    Groceries - yep, I think this is where you can shine. And there are a lot of strategies that you can pick and choose from. Lots of folks swear by coupons - I use a price book, use mostly store brands, loss leaders from flyers in the grocery store (they are advertised on the Internet so you can plan it ahead), and I love using rainchecks, where if a loss leader is sold out you can ask at checkout whether you can get a raincheck for that item to use later. Kinda like manufacturing your own coupons. And remember that a price book is not just for food. It works for incidentals and for gasoline, too.
    Boys Lunch - With two teenage boys, 80 is probably cheap! Big Grin

  3. boomeyers Says:

    Well, don't beat yourself up. We are all here to learn to control and pay off our debt!
    The tv going would be good and the grocery cuts would help, but with 2 teenage boys good luck!
    You did not mention either, what your interest rates were on your debt. Could you consolidate your home loan to a lower rate and add in paying off some of the debt? Could you call the cards with higher rates and request a lower one?
    I made my daughter buy her own phone and then she does the pay as you go with the phone cards. No monthly fees at all. I think this would tremendously help with the boys cell phones. The would have to learn to use them for important calls only and not frivolous ones.
    Just some thoughts! Good luck!

  4. sarah Says:

    Given the medical bills I don't think you have done badly at all.

  5. The Dollar Diva Says:

    To scfr:

    1) Yes, I do want to pay down my debt. Thatís over $700 a month I pay in just credit card debt and I know by paying the bare minimum I will never get these things paid off.
    2) I am only paying the minimum and I am trying my very hardest not to use them but if I fall short and need gas Ö
    3) One of the reasons I am trying to leave my current job and pursue job #2 full time is that I am 1099, have NO benefits (not even sick or vacation), do not get any gas reimbursement and last year I put over 25,000 miles on my car. I will get a tax write-off but I think this is a losing situation.
    4) At this time I do not have to pay for any of my daughter's college. Between student loans and a generous helping hand from my sister she is taken care of for the time being.
    5) The amount I put in for "car" is just the car payment. It does not include insurance or yearly registration (which is all we have in Florida). My soon to be ex-husband has been paying the car insurance but I will have to pay my own in a couple of months. Add to this that the boys will soon be on the insurance policy and I'm afraid to see what that is going to be.
    6) Incidentals I need but currently can't even imagine fitting into the budget are braces for the boys, vet visit for the animals, dry cleaning and home maintenance. We do not belong to any sports clubs and entertainment for us consists of making nachos and watching a movie we already own or going to the beach. I also cut the boys' hair myself.

    To Baselle:

    1) I hate all credit cards Ö I just hate Chase the most. I once saw a plan where you paid the minimum on all the cards. If you could afford to pay more then apply it to the card with the smallest balance (just like you said). Once the smallest balance card was paid off you applied the amount you had been paying on that card to the next card up in addition to the minimum you were already paying on it. Oh, and an important part of this is that as the minimum goes down you keep paying the original amount you started with.
    2) I donít have mortgage insurance. I currently have about $90k equity in my house BUT I have a prepay which will cost me $6k if I refinance (to pull some of that equity out). My prepay will go away in Oct of this year. At that time I will most likely refi into a 15 or 20 year fixed. My mortgage payment does include taxes and insurance.
    3) I will check out the energy sucker thing Fern let us know about. Also I will have Florida Power and Light come out and do an assessment on how I can save. My house is large and old.
    4) Right now Comcast has me bundled. I just broke it down for analyzing purposes. I will check into other providers since once I chop the TV part Comcast may very well up my internet.
    5) My sales calls are often on the fly. If a current client needs me Ö Iím there and consequently that will rearrange my whole day. I will check out Gasbuddy. Thank you!
    6) Can you tell me what a loss leader and a price book are? I donít use coupons because they are generally on name brands and I can get store brands cheaper. I did the cash only thing this week and I spent $42! Of course I didnít need any cleaning supplies or toiletries or paper towels or toilet paper this week. The groceries includes all of those items plus breakfast (the boys and me), lunch (me), dinner (the boys and me). They buy their lunch at school and I canít pack them a lunch for $2 a day so thatís a deal.

    To Boomeyers:
    I will make the boys pay their own phones once they get a job. They arenít slackers and they are very eager to get their own jobs and finally some of their own spending money!
    I had my first financial meeting with them Saturday night and it went well but I just went over the basics. Tonight I will show them real numbers. I think by involving them and letting them come up with some solutions it will turn out better than I had thought. I would consolidate my debt using some of the equity in my house but paying out $6k to do it (because of my prepay) may not be the best decision. If I can make ends meet by carving down current expenses and taking on jobs #2 and #3 then I would rather do that. In October I will refinance and at that time I will most likely incorporate some of my current debt (like you suggested). I just have to be disciplined enough to keep paying on it (adding to the principle balance) and not think that it ďwent away.Ē My current rate is 4.75% and Iím paying interest only.

    To Sarah:
    Thank you. I just donít want to end up a healthy homeless person Smile


  6. LuxLiving Says:

    Hey Pat it sounds like you are already getting some good advice here - don't forget to post your original breakdown over in the forums, some smartfolks are there that don't get over to the blogs.

    I wanted to remind you that on paper goods and cleaning supplies you can generally do better than buying them at the grocery or Walmart by going to the dollar type stores. I get by there on laundry, cleaning & trashbag kinda stuff for between $20-30 a month depending on what we are needing to restock.

    Look online for a Save-A-Lot or an Aldi's grocery near you. It can be worth the drive to do a big stock up.

    Perhaps you could get the boys involved with helping you ebay? Mine helped me shoot pics, and w/retrieving items when sold from the basement and packaging them, plus schlepping them to the post office. If they are truly computer whiz kids then they can even help you post your sale items online.

    A price book is a notebook that you keep track of where you buy items at the cheapest prices.

    Ex:

    Tuna 6 oz can. .49 1/01/07 Walgreens S S=Sale R=Regular Price
    .43 1/06/07 ScratchNDent R
    .52 1/07/07 Albertson's R
    .41 1/11/07 Save-A-Lot R

    Guess where you try to buy all your tuna from here on out?

    BTW I have almost a grocery cart full of tuna that I bought for 30 cents a can when my neighborhood grocer had them in the dent bin - I bought all they had. These kinds of buys are usually only there early in the mornings (but watch out grocery shopping lots are supposed to be dangerous for women in the early morning hours - be vigilant and watch around you.)

    When you find something on deep discount and you've got some cash buy all you can IF it is something you normally buy anyway.

    A loss leader is a sale item that is soooo discounted by the grocer to intice you into the store. The method you're looking for here is to go buy the 99cent gallon of milk and the 29 cent eggs and the 79 cent flour that he's advertising but avoid buying anything else in that store.

    Have you seen that $30 emergency menu site?

    Look at menu planning as a great method as well for $savings. Rotate cheap meals through the rotation. Pasta, rice, beans, oats are usually inexpensive.

    Keep posting here and asking questions! We're rooting for you!

  7. jriessel Says:

    I struggle getting the grocery bill down also. Currently I have budgeted $600 a month for groceries, household and gas - these are my cash purchases. Paying with cash really helped me out - I took all the plastic (including my bank card) out of my billfold and have cash only to pay for these type items. It really makes me think twice about everything I put in my cart. I know this system doesn't work for everyone and it didn't work for me until I took the plastic out. If I had a bank card to fall back on I would over spend my budget almost every time - mostly on stuff I didn't need (lattes, junk for the girls, clothes).

    Good Luck to you and keep us posted.

  8. LdyFaile Says:

    My experience with Comcast is that if you have nothing but internet coming in they'll charge you an extra $10/month. Because of this my roomate and I opted for their cheapest basic cable package, which is $13/mo because it works out to only $3 extra a month overall.

    Everyone else has left you some really good advice so I don't have anything else to add except welcome!

  9. LdyFaile Says:

    Oh I just thought of a couple more things..

    MSN Autos http://autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx is another great place to look for gas prices locally. It goes by zip but covers a larger area than most of the web sites I've seen. It also doesn't rely on someone else spotting gas prices and posting them.

    MyGroceryDeals.com is another site I just recently found that is handy for me since I don't get the paper and don't get the food ads as a result.

  10. The Dollar Diva Says:

    Thank you everyone! I'm posting all those web sites to my favorites so I can check on them daily. And it makes sense going to the dollar store for cleaning supplies. It's funny because just from the new knowledge and support I feel I have already made progress. One baby step after another. Smile

  11. LuckyRobin Says:

    I know paying off debt incurred by medical bills can seem overwhelming, but it can be done and you will do it. Just hang in there and keep fighting.

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