Browse Month by September 2016
Credit cards, Loans

Most of it was little things

…and simply not saving for a tough time. I’ve known since I was in junior high that the ideal is to have 3 months of expenses saved up so that if you get laid off, or injured, you will be fine. My parents have more than that saved. They have never had more than one credit card. And only in the last couple years for online purchases or travel. And yet they managed to make it just fine with a single income and 3 kids. We also had one of my grandmothers live with us for 11 years. And during that same time, my other grandmother lived with us for a year. She chose to go into a nursing home back in her home town, and later her money ran out, so my dad had to pay that too.

Yet, they have never had bad credit.

And then there is me. I got my first credit cards in college, and I used them to buy text books, books for fun, little stuff that I thought I needed. My first computer.

When I realized it was too much, I started paying higher than the minimum to get rid of it. During the summer, I was paying $200 a week to get rid of them, which was pretty good consider my paycheck. It took me about a year, but i got rid of every one of them and I was thrilled.

I went debt free about 2 years. Then I started up my own small business. I couldn’t get a loan, so I got a couple smaller credit cards. I bought some equipment and supplies. A new computer.

Basically, I was over-confident. I was sure that I was going to do well and be able to pay it off fairly quickly. But while I got lots of compliments on my work, people weren’t buying much. Then I heard about a show in Reno. I do horse photography, and this show was the biggest in the country, and featuring the breed that I specialize in. They were saying 15,000 people would be there.

So, I decided to go. I stocked up on supplies for products and worked really hard. Two months before the show, I received an offer for a $3,000 loan. I knew the interest rate was too high, but I was sure I would make at least $7,000 at the show (plenty to pay that back and ALL of my other debts). And I had enough product to sell over $15,000 if it went well. I was really excited, I expected to be debt free after the show. Sales were $800. That was it. That barely covered the cost of my being there – vendor fee, insurance, hotel, gas, food, etc.

I managed to get almost instant financial help from ElcLoans.com (I recommend this website) to keep paying the minimums until 2 years ago, when I had two expensive vet bills overlap each other. The first was doable. My dog had mange, and she required special medical baths every two weeks for 3 months. Overall, it cost me about $550, but it was spread out. The topper was the cat. He got a bad abcess, and age 16, they wanted to do bloodwork too. So, I had to pay $243 that day, to get him treated and pick him up. My paycheck was only $250. Bills that needed to be paid didn’t get paid on time, and since the cards were already maxed, I had a late fee + overdraft fee. And then of course, the next month, they want the regular amount + anything over the limit + any extra fees. So, a bill that was only $60 is now suddenly $180 and that is impossible to pay. Even if I pay part, some of it is still late, and the fees start over again.

And that is how I came to be where I am. I am not a victim of bad circumstances. I was young and dumb, and I have only myself to blame for this mess. And I know how easily I would do it again. So, I have to change my lifestyle and my *attitude* toward spending and saving. I need to dig myself out of this mess, but also make sure I don’t let it happen again. I already gave up drinking pop (thankfully, I don’t drink coffee or smoke). And I take lunch to work now, which is saving me a ton of money. I can’t believe I wasted so much money before.

And now it kills me to watch my sister keep going down the same path. She is older than me, in far more debt, yet she continues to buy expresso each day. She eats at fast food restaurants each day. She’s been paying for a health club membership for 15 years, yet she doesn’t go. And she won’t cancel it. She has paid over $3,000 into Trendwest and won’t sell it off even though she can’t afford it. She has creditors calling, and certified letters from the IRS for over a year. She had my parents co-sign a debt consolidation loan and has commented she would like to do it again. She gave up her good job to work a more fun job, which paid $4 less per hour and has no benefits.

A year later, she quit that job and was unemployed for awhile. She is now currently working as a nanny/errand person, working 50 hours per week, and only earning $275 a week. So, she works harder than me, earns less, and owes more.

So, my parents have paid $1000 to fix her car, let her live in the rental house for free (she’s supposed to be paying $350 rent + utilities, but she hasn’t paid anything in over 3 months), and they still help with her bills.

And you know what, she hasn’t learned a damned thing. She hasn’t changed her spending in the slightest, and her debt isn’t getting any smaller.

She won’t even use a check register to keep track of her finances. She just calls the banks and assumes that every balance is current, and forgets what automatic payments are yet to come out.

I can’t even go anywhere with her now, because it would mean more shopping for her, and dinner out at a restaurant. I also have to be careful what I cook at home and when. Because she comes to our house to eat. Yes, I live with my parents. I can’t afford my own place, so I rent part of the basement, and I help support my nephew who lives with us. That doesn’t help me pay off my bills any faster, but with all the crap my sister is doing, I have to help somehow.

I really do believe that getting out of debt is financial fitness, just like health fitness. We have to change our lifestyle, our attitude. We can’t just go on a quick fix, get it cleared, and then everything is good again. we have to really change, and keep those changes even after things look good. Or we are doomed to fail again.

Budgeting and saving, Gift ideas

Everyone except my nieces and kids get framed Photos

Everyone except my nieces and kids get framed Photos. I buy wood frames used at garage sales and spray paint them flat black as that shows off the photos the best. New glass is cheap and cutting glass it easy. If the glass is broken or missing you can get nice frames for .10 to .25 otherwise it is about 1.00. Sometimes if you show up at the end of a sale you can get a whole box for $1 to $2. I use a white museum quality mat and foam core and finish it nicely with acid free tape.

I always sign and date and put a personal note on the back. A part time job with a custom frame place will give you lessons on mat cutting plus access to a mat cutter and materials cheap plus a little income to pay for your supplies. Do well and build a relationship with the owner and you can go back and cut mats for birthdays and other events. I have collected from Grandparents old family photos and documented them well. The old sepia prints on great grand parents and other family history make great wedding presents when framed in a more elaborate formal way too. After you do this you can do mats and frames for friends in exchange for babysitting or other things you might need like cash. They are always looking for extra people during the season.

I have invested in a very nice camera because that is a favorite hobby and in the end it has paid for its self. If you need photography lessons then ask at your local photostore or find out the teacher who teaches at your local community center ask if you can assist in class in exchange for coming. People complain when I find that perfect gift and buy them something else. We bake cookies for token gifts (mail person, garbage person, neighbors) and put them in hand decorated brown lunch sacks lined with waxed tissue that I buy from a local bakery for wholesale. I also organize group gifts for teachers and daycare people and Girl Scout leaders with other parents.

This is very much appreciated and takes little effort and in the end if you can give a teacher or day care worker a $200 American express gift check from 20 to 30 people then they feel much more appreciated as you went to the effort to ensure they got something nice. These are people who deserve big gifts but alone it is impossible to make this happen. We collect individual cards from each giver and put them in a large envelope. Every year I organize this it gets easier and people start expecting so they don’t buy ahead they know I’m going to do this. Occasionally someone offers to help.

I do very very little shopping at Christmas. My kids each get 4 things something they want, something to wear(usually PJs),. something to read, and something they need. Stockings are filled with art supplies and candy a tooth brush and a trial sized tooth paste. These things come from the entire extended family not just me so it is pretty much 4 things to open at Christmas. My mom sews so she makes the PJs and sometimes a pillow case to match. My sister is in charge of books and takes great care in selecting the right one for each kid( she loves books). Used books are fine and used items in general are considered a cool thing.

Our family is very much at the point it is the thought that counts and handmade gifts that are personal are considered in very high regard. The thing with overspending on Christmas is when you do this people feel they have to reciprocate. It might take a few years for a new in-law to get with the program but if you don’t follow suite and continue to do the nice but handmade item they will get the picture that is what you want too. Those that are not crafty buy supplies or gift cards for supplies.