Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Friend Paid Our Bet

This is so cool! My friend sent me the money he lost on the bet I wrote about back in November. How cool is it to look at $1,000 dollars?!:


I had to take a picture because this money won't last. I plan to buy some items I've been wanting lately like new shoes and some golf clubs. Best of all this money is not taxed on my end since it's gambling and in cash :)

HS

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I wanted to take a little time out of my daily routine and wish every happy holidays. This time last year after Christmas I decorated the baby's room, for some reason I can't stop thinking about that? 2012 turned out to be the best year of my life, I can't believe 2013 is just around the corner. I know the best is yet to come.

On Friday my manager came in and said to leave anytime after lunch so I left around 2 PM to finish up some shopping. I did really good this year, probably spent $600 for everyone so I'm thrilled that I didn't have to add too much debt. I will post the credit card balance next week and I will try to live on holiday cash and gift cards until next payday in 2013.

Enjoy the holidays, spend time with those you love. Be thankful for everything you have and if you're not happy about something remember that things could be a lot worse.

HS

Friday, December 21, 2012

Setting Goals for 2013

I would like to set my goals now prior to all the upcoming holidays. I think we do this every year but my goals are usually the same. Lose weight, spend less, make more money and live a better life. I think every year I start strong and slowly lose track but 2013 has to be a better year. I have that now or never attitude so I'm going to make it work.

Stuff: I've started selling a ton of stuff on eBay I don't need. Next year I want less stuff in my life. I don't want to have to worry about stuff anymore. If I haven't used it in 6 months it has to go. I have a lot of watches that don't get a lot of wrist time and they're already for sale. Wife also has a lot of designer purses she's not using so I'm going to quietly put those on eBay as well. The goal for next year is to have less 'stuff' only own what you will use and wear often.

Credit Cards: I would like to go cash only but realistically I can't be at the ATM every day getting cash and I hate having to worry about how much money I have in my checking account. The wife and I have 1 credit card that we share, the Citi Forward card and it will be used for our daily expenses like eating out, food and groceries. The main goal for next year is to try to use this card and pay it off every month, maintain a zero balance as much as possible.

Money: Save $500 dollars a month no matter what happens. I have the Discover Savings account setup. I can't really touch that money so I plan to send $250 to it every time we get paid. That may not be a lot of money but at least it's something. I estimate our tax return next year to be around $2,500 dollars so at least $1,000 of that will also go in to savings. The goal for next year is to save, save, save!

Weight: My current weight right now is 183.4 pounds. The goal is to be at 170 pounds and maintain. When our baby girl was born I was 172 pounds but ever since she's been here I haven't been able to get back in to running or exercising as often as I used to. Alcohol also seems to impact my weight so the goal next year is to get to 170 pounds and cut back on the drinking.

Career: I need to make more money. The economy is better now and I would like to get out of consulting. I would like to find a new job that pays at least $10,000 more per year. The goal next year is to start looking for new work and apply at different places.

Easy goals right? Do you think I can do this? I've added a new label called 'Goals' to this post so I can quickly access them under my tags section.

HS

Monday, December 17, 2012

What a Sad Weekend...

You've heard all about Newtown, Connecticut. It was very hard on the wife who is a kindergarten teacher and has 21 students. She was very upset Friday and cried a lot. She had nightmares all weekend thinking what she would do, how she would protect all of her students... I tried to be supportive but what can you do? As a good husband I helped her to focus on the things that matter so we built 22 gingerbread houses for her kids to decorate this week:

That's all I can say...

HS

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Student Loan Debt

The wife and I are both college graduates. I have a bachelor's degree in Information Systems and she has a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. We both attended a public university in Houston, the third largest in Texas.

I was lucky to have my college education paid for by my parents so I don't have any student loan debt. The wife  also had some financial support from her family but had to get student loans to help with the cost. When we got married her student loan debt became mine so now I manage it for her every month. The cost of each of our degrees was around $30,000 for five years. When she graduated she owed close to $21,000.

Today we still owe Sallie Mae $14,930. We consolidated the loans back in 2005 and got a really nice interest rate of 1.88%. The monthly payment is only $121 dollars a month. I kept a low payment back when we graduated since we didn't have good jobs at the time. Now that we have a little bit more money I try to pay extra when I can.

Here are the actual numbers as of this morning:


This the only other debt that we had that I've never mentioned on our blog. Now that the credit card balance is more manageable I've decided to start tracking this debt here. This debt and the new car are the only debts that we have other than our mortgage.

HS

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did You Redeem Your Rewards?

Did You Redeem Your Rewards? That was the question the customer service associate asked me when I was closing our Citi Thank You card. He said I have 30 days to redeem the Thank You points but I was already ahead of the game. The week before I called to close the account I went ahead and got $150 dollar gift card for Best Buy:



Not bad, that's $150 I get back from them for all the interest they charged me this year. While I was in there I was curious to see how much I got back in rewards for 2012 and was surprised to see 52,500 points which equals $525 dollars in gift cards:


I need to change... I love to play the credit card game and get all these points but that's how the credit cards keep you in debt. $525 may seem like a lot of money but my average debt with Citi for this year was $9,000. Is it worth the $525? NO!!

HS

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodbye Citi Thank You Card

This morning I'm happy to announce I no longer have a Citi Thank You card! I sent in the final payment and as soon as that balance hit zero I called customer service and canceled the account. They offered me everything: $100 gift card, lower interest rate, higher credit line. I declined everything and demanded that my account be closed. Below is the last screen shot you will ever see on this card:


I still plan to keep my Citi Forward card to maintain good credit. The balance on that card right now is $1,000. The goal is to use the card as needed but pay it off every month. I will continue saving money every month (money that used to go to credit cards) and use that money in case we have unexpected expenses.

Today is a good day, I will not miss my Citi Thank You credit card.

HS

Monday, December 10, 2012

The New Vehicle

I did it! I went ahead and got the car I wanted. I found a used one on eBay so I went and looked at it. After spending 3 hours at the dealership test driving and working through the financing I decided to get it. It is a 2013 Hyundai Elantra Limited. It had 8900 miles so I saved $3,000 off when compared to buying a new one. The price may seem a bit high but it has all the features I wanted like Proximity Key and Navigation. I love the car and I think it was the right purchase:



I ended up financing $21,600 and that includes taxes, title and registration. The interest rate is 2.99% for 60 months (800+ debt score). The payment is $407 dollars. I plan to pay $500 per month to pay this down a little faster. This loan had no money down so the money from old car went to pay off most of our credit card debt. I put a little bit of that money in savings so it can be used as an emergency fund, I never want to fall in to credit card debt again.

I know financially this may not make sense but our credit card debt got a little bit out of control. The rates on the cards ranged from 12.99% to 14.99% so 2.99% is a lot better. Feels like a huge weight was lifted off my back. I kept sending money to the cards but the balance never went down. Over the next few months I plan to save at least $500 from every paycheck. I already started this new 'habit' this month and sent some money to our Discover online savings account.

HS

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

iPhone Check Deposits

The other day I got a check for $21 in the mail and was already dreading driving to the ATM to deposit it. Instead I decided to try Bank of America's cool new direct deposit app from my iPhone (also works on iPad). How cool is this? Right from our kitchen I scanned the check, put in the amount and clicked on deposit. No more trips to the ATM or to a teller:


Next day the money was there! It didn't credit right away like the deposits at the ATM but I don't mind waiting until the next day to have full access to the money. This is what it looked like on my online banking screen, it gives you a electronic deposit image and it saves all pictures of the check and the amount:


Just imagine if this was available 10 years ago when some employers were still doing paper checks? You could scan your check from your phone the minute you got paid and avoid that trip to the teller.

Very cool!

HS

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Debt is Out of Control

November is finally over and I learned a lot about myself during that month. I want my blog to know that I cannot travel and be alone or single. I go crazy, I get bored, I want to go out, I want to make friends and at the end of the night my bar tab is over $100. This would be fine if it was one night but after a few weeks it was every night. Per Diems? I have no idea where most of that money went. I charged everything to my Citi Forward credit card. I made a lot of payments but the balance right now is well over $5,000 dollars:

This was not supposed to happen! I keep telling myself don't panic. I can probably blame the mattress purchase and the yearly HOA fees but I'm putting all that behind me, leaving it all in November 2012. I need a fresh start and the only way to make some progress is to go ahead and trade in my car and use that money to pay off the debt. Don't forget I also have a balance on the Citi Thank You card:


That's right, the credit card debt is well over $10,000! After I pay down most of this debt I plan to close the Citi Thank You card and put away the Citi Forward credit card. No more credit cards. Cash only... 

HS