How Quickly Things Change

I've been busy! We sold the car for a pretty large hit a little while ago. We were eager to get rid of it and get on with life without a large monthly payment. We wrote a check for our negative equity, signed a couple of easy title papers and voila. We had no car. God really planned the whole thing to a tee because not only did we have extra cash because of the stimulus payment and odd jobs, we also found the most perfect, decked out older minivan with low miles at a great price the day before we signed the papers on the car. It was amazing how it all worked out, only by the hand of God.

And so, we are car payment free, debt-snowballing all of our extra money each month.
God has also been gracious to give us ways to earn extra money. We worked very hard, my husband mostly though- for about 8-9 weeks. The newest test of our faith comes in waiting to be paid for work already completed. We are owed several thousand dollars at the moment for work done over 5 weeks ago. As soon as we get paid, we will pay off all credit card debt, and will have money towards the LAST DEBT, a student loan! It's really frustrating though. It's hard to be patient after working so long. Fortunately, it's almost over, and we haven't sold any property yet!

Thank the Lord for His goodness. He is merciful.

I Joined the Swap!

I've finally joined PaperBackSwap. I can't believe I've waited for so long! We have a bookshelf of books I haven't picked up in years. I just signed up and added 10 books to my list and got 2 credits for free books!

Within the hour someone requested a book of mine, so I will soon print the label, affix the postage, and stick it in my mailbox! As soon as they receive it, I get a free credit for any book I want on the site.

I used one of my free book credits to get a beginner's Spanish guide for my husband. It says it should be in the mail in a couple of days! And, if you use the link or banner on my website to sign up, I get a free book credit! :) So exciting.

Get from $25 to $500 for FREE!

So very exciting! I've jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak, and joined RevolutionMoneyExchange! It's competition for Paypal, and it's breaking into the scene quickly by giving away $25 to every new account holder! And you can get up to $500 by referring your friends! The money appears in your account instantly after they sign up.

I signed up yesterday and I already have $60 in my account! I was hesitant at first to give out my Social (in)Security Number, but after researching it, I found that they are backed by some huge names in finance, along with a real FDIC bank in South Dakota. And the page is secure too, which is also reassuring.

If you want to get a free $25, please use my link or button, and I'll get $10 as well! It's only until May 15th, so get your free money while you can. :)

The Car's Not Selling

We are about at the end of the rope with the car... We've listed it online and had one serious looker, but even priced below every other car that's the same it just will not sell! It's been four months now, and we keep lowering the price.

In the meantime, we have been looking at cheap cars to replace our vehicle. One night, we thought we found the van we were looking for, and after arranging to meet the person, we drove two hours one way to find out he sold the van right an hour before we got there and didn't even bother to call. That was probably the most frustrating moment in the whole frugal journey. We are trying so hard, pushing to get out of debt, but we aren't in charge of it. We can drive four hours, and spend $30 in gas for a sure thing, just to have that door slam in our face.

So what are we doing now? We are waiting. Waiting for something to fall from the sky with God's name written all over it. We still have the car up for sale, but we aren't holding our breath. The only thing we know for sure is that God is in control and we have to trust Him. Who knows, maybe the day we sell our car we'll find out we sold our property, and we'll find a van far better than we ever dreamed. It's all in God's timing, I know.

Best Money Saving Website. Ever. :)

My favorite money saving website is MoneySavingMom- each week Crystal does a breakdown of deals at CVS, Walgreen's, Rite Aid as well as keeps you posted on the best deals on the internet. If you haven't been there before, you have to go! You'll save money just by reading it!

Decisions, Decisions

We have some big decisions to make at this point. We have a large sum of money from extra jobs and taxes that we need to put on something.

It's definitely a nice problem to have a decent pile of money, but rather sad when you don't get to keep it, and it goes to reduce another number on the screen. This time might be different as we have enough to pay down our car and buy another one.

If we sell our car outright to another person, we will have enough money to buy a decent car with cash. If we can't sell it to another person (which seems likely as we are a finance-only society) we might have to trade it in. If we do have to go with the trade in plan, we will have to wait until our stimulus rebate comes in or until we get another side job to be able to afford another car.

If or when we sell our car, we will no longer have a car payment, which means that we will triple our debt snowball on our other debt. Yeah!

We will be needing much prayer as we try to decide what we should do with our cars and try to find a reliable very used car. At least it's progress. :)

The Frugal Downfall of Price Snobbery

One of the biggest obstacles I've encountered in our journey to being frugal with our money is price snobbery. I realized this after I went shopping the other day at Old Navy. I was much more willing to pay $15 for a pair of pants there than I would anywhere I normally shop.

I wouldn't buy anything at Ross or Marshall's for $15 without really thinking about the purchase before I made it, but somehow, $15 at Old Navy was cheap to me, and it was easy to spend there. Why exactly? I don't think it was the clothing quality- Old Navy's clothing is on par with Ross or some Target clothes, but I wouldn't easily spend that money at Ross or Target.

I was being a price snob. I was changing my view of my money based on my surroundings rather than looking at it from the right perspective. If I were in Ross, I would carefully calculate whether this or that was worth $15, but since I was in Old Navy I felt that $15 for an item or two was really cheap.

I have to be careful to realize that no matter the store, $15 is still $15. Next time I go into Old Navy to buy something, I am going to ask myself- would I spend this much money anywhere else?

Frugal Confession- We Loved New Cars

We were huge new car fans. We held the theory that since we were going to be paying a car payment for the rest of our lives, why not drive what we want? All of our cars cost about the same amount, but we kept losing equity every time we traded. All we cared about was that monthly payment, but we didn't realize that payments were what were killing us. We only looked at the little picture- month to month, paycheck to paycheck.

It is a sad story- one with lots of great memories of beautiful, fast cars, but it cost us a lot of money. In the last five years we have had six different cars. SIX. Looking back, I can't believe we were so stupid. And as Dave would say, we've paid the stupid tax.

We could have bought our first car in cash and only bought future cars with cash. We would have saved ourselves so much money I don't even want to calculate it. We probably wouldn't have any other debt right now.

These days we are doing our best to change our car buying habits forever. We are trying to sell our current car, which we have paid thousands down on, and buy a cheap used car with cash. We are eager to put this new car-buying nonsense behind us now that we realize that a car is just that, and it's certainly not worth having a payment for the rest of our lives.

The Future Isn't so Bleak After All

We didn't sell our property like we thought we would. Instead the man bought a lot on another street. We were very disappointed. It is so hard to get your hopes up and then to have them let down. It really feels like God is teaching us a lesson in patience. And it's a hard one.

On the bright side, we started our taxes and it looks like with our refund, the stimulus rebate, and a few side jobs that are in the works we should still be debt free for the most part! If we sell our car at an even lower price (we have been paying it down with whatever we get) and buy a $5000 car or less we will be almost debt-free. We still owe some money to a family member from our college days, and we consider that the next debt in line.

All of this extra money would come in around May. So potentially, by May of this year we could be nearly debt free and still own our property. That was quite exciting, as we weren't planning on any money from the taxes or the new rebate! There still might be a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. ;)

Dave Ramsey Pick Up Lines

This is from Dave Ramsey's website- it totally cracked me up!

Written by our own Chris Russell, courtesy of My Total Money

I still have money in my "restaurant" envelope ... can I buy you dinner?

Would you like to dance? I'd love to show you my Baby Steps.

Why am I nervous about talking to you? Because you're better than I deserve.

Allow me to introduce myself ... I am "borrower", and you must be "lender".

Good thing I got just term life insurance ... because I saw you and my heart stopped!

You can't spell Financial Peace University without U and I.

I've already kicked Sallie Mae out. Want to take her place?

I just bought a bass boat with cash ... and it's a good thing, because you're quite a catch!

I'm not mortgage interest baby ... don't write me off.

The good news? I'm debt free. The better news? I'm also date free.

Frugal Confession- We Eat Out.

It's a terrible, terrible thing in the personal finance world. Eating out is a budget killer.

We do it. Two or three times a week. Never eating out would be much cheaper but sitting around our favorite table at our favorite deli drinking great tea and only paying $12 for our family to eat- it is just something we love to do. We pay for the great food and the great experience.

In fact, we pretty much eat at the same restaurant two or three times a week. Sadly enough we actually know all of the managers by name and how many kids they have, etc. In our less frugal days we ate out way more often, like 5-6 times per week. Life was busy and we used it as an excuse to eat out. Now that our pace has slowed and we are trying to get out of debt, we make most of our meals at home and try to only eat out a couple of times per week while really looking forward to each of those meals out. Every pay period we budget money for dining out into our grocery category and usually stay within that constraint.

I wouldn't say that we eat out for the food as much as the experience. We love to eat without having to perform work for it. Meals at home are much healthier and usually more filling but often take over two hours to prepare, eat, and clean up. I think that's why we really enjoy eating out- it's quick, relaxing, and enjoyable. It's the only "entertainment" we pay for. It's been a nice outlet for us and it allows us spend a little extra money on this when we are getting low on gazelle intensity.

We've reduced our dining out significantly over the past year, but will we ever get to the point of rarely eating out? It's possible. We hope the Lord blesses us with lots of children so eating out really wouldn't be a very easy or cheap solution for meals. In the mean time we are still enjoying relaxing at our favorite restaurant and adding in the dining out money to our monthly budget.

Trying to Avoid Being Excited!

Since yesterday I have been trying very hard not to think about this new possibility!

We have property we have been trying to sell for almost a year so we can become debt-free. We own the property outright so we would gain all the money from it's sale.

Yesterday my husband comes home with the news that someone wants to buy our property!

He met with them yesterday and they said several times that they want our piece of land. It's an older man and his wife that are building their nice retirement home. They just have to look over the restrictions and check on a few logistics, but it seems they are ready to buy.

I can't believe it. I see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel!!!! I want to keep my eyes shut though so my hopes don't get crushed if something doesn't work out.

If we sell this, we can be completely debt free!

It's terribly exciting, but I don't want to be happy about it yet, until it happens.

I can't wait to call Dave and scream we're debt free! Wohoo! Pray that it sells for us! :)

Frugal Confession- My Parents Were Ultra-Frugal

When I was about 11 years old, my parents were going through some really tough times financially. They were on the beans and macaroni plan before Dave made it popular. Every week, we would have pinto beans and mac and cheese for a couple of dinners.

One night, my mom was making beans and somehow accidentally scorched them. It made the whole house stink. If you have ever burned pinto beans you know that horrid smell I'm talking about.

In an effort to rescue the beans, they took them out of the pot and decided to make my great-grandmother's old recipe of bean patties. I kid you not. So, they took the horridly smelling, awful tasting burnt beans and you guessed it- battered and fried them right up. And we all had to sit down to dinner to eat these greasy brown patties.

It was the single most disgusting food I can ever remember trying to eat. My parents gave us ketchup to put on them, but nothing we tried could make these patties taste better.

Luckily they had a sense of humor about the whole thing and we ate mostly mac and cheese that night. Ever since then, it's been a inside joke in our family.

Most people would have thrown the beans out, but hey, even though we didn't eat them, we have a great family memory. Sometimes the ultra-frugal mishaps can be fun too!

Coping with Frugality Burnout

J.D. over at GetRichSlowly posted this article just in time, "How to Cope with Frugality Burnout." It was like a reading about my own life....! :)

He quotes Sara Noel:

"It can get tiring to make cheaper choices or overthink small decisions like what laundry detergent to buy. It’s enough to make you crack when you have so many other things to do every day."

I also like this quote on how to cope:

"Cut yourself some slack. If your budget is so tight that you feel deprived, you run the risk of giving up altogether. “Frugality doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Noel says, and she’s right. As long as your remain focused on you goal, it’s okay to take a break from time-to-time. Just don’t overdo it. (Buying a DVD is a good way to blow off steam; buying a new HDTV is not.)"

Sometimes the best way to cope is to realize burnout is normal and to find others who have been through it to give you advice like this! :)

Frugal Confession- The Gazelle has Jumped the Fence

It's confession time once again. And it's a big one.

I am tired of being frugal. Really tired of it.

I don't want to sell our nice car, I don't want to have to price shop for everything. I still want to buy only things that we can afford, but I don't get excited anymore about extra money that goes toward debt. It's more like a sigh, and with a mouse click the money is gone to reduce some number on my computer screen. The luxury and expense of a anniversary cruise won't even fit into the picture of the next three years.

The love, the gazelle intensity- it's dying.

I want to go to Sam's and pick up fruit because its better there, without doing math on how much each orange will cost, and comparing it to see if Walmart is cheaper. I want to buy the fresh bagels, not the day old ones. I don't want to feel guilty about buying bagels in the first place when I could find a way to make them at home.

Can you tell I am tired? :)

Deep down I know that we will have to keep doing the frugal thing- and even when we have no debt, we will still need to be frugal. For us to get to the place where fresh bagels aren't too expensive, we need work hard and get this debt paid off. I know that, and I am sure we will keep it up, I just miss that all-fired-up desire to be gazelle intense. :)

Frugal Confession- I Pay an Extra $4 When Dining Out

When we go out for dinner (which is thankfully far less often than we did in the past!)- we commit the ultimate frugal living sin. We buy soft drinks.

It's almost $4 for two drinks these days. It's awful. We know it. Restaurants don't even put soft drink prices on the menu anymore- maybe they are ashamed that they are ripping people off. :)

I have to say, we have improved significantly in the restaurant soft-drink arena. We probably buy soft drinks only half of the times we go out for dinner now. It's just so hard to drink water for some reason. Dr. Pepper is linked with dining pleasure, a special treat, like dining out, while tap water is linked with cheapness and often tastes bad to me.

Sometimes I prefer water over soda but usually it's a conscious decision to save money that keeps me drinking water with lemon. We haven't gone to full-time restaurant water drinking yet. Maybe we will get there soon. We will definitely save more money when we do.

$10 off $75 at Home Depot


Home Depot $10 off $75 and more

Go to link above.

Enter your zip or 19101

Go to Home and Yard tab, then House Improvement.

Coupon will be listed good to 1/30/08

Frugal Trade-offs

Paidtwice has an interesting point in this post. Sometimes, what seems to be the frugal choice actually isn't the most frugal decision you can make when you calculate the extra expenses that are involved.

Sam's has the best price on chicken breast by $2 compared to Walmart, but Sam's is an extra 18 miles round trip, and with gas at $3 per gallon, it would cost me almost $3 to drive there from Walmart. So that chicken actually ends up being $1 more at Sam's. Gas used to be a necessary expense you never calculate, but these days it can actually be a deal breaker.

Frugal Confession- I Love Expensive Makeup

I have to confess- I am in love with department store makeup. It all started after my first semester in college. I had just finished finals, and my roommates and I decided to reward ourselves with a makeover at Dillard's.

I had never even thought to buy makeup at one of those expensive-looking counters. But a free makeover sounded like fun. I had always used drugstore makeup and was never really happy with it, but after wasting tons of money trying other inexpensive kinds I gave up and stuck with the cheapest stuff I could buy.

Until I got my makeover. I went to the Clinique section, got my makeover and was a convert. Never had I known that makeup could feel light and soft! I bought the foundation and eyeliner, at $20 and $14 respectively. I have been a consistent buyer ever since, spending $35 about every 6 weeks on makeup of all things.

I used to think that just because I could buy four $5 foundations for the same price, I was overpaying. And so, when funds were low, I would go back and try to spend $5 on foundation. I would wear it for a few days and then end up buying the $20 foundation because it was so much better, effectively wasting my $5 on the cheap stuff. I used to have the mindset that quantity equals quality. But I think I have found something un-frugal that is higher quality that makes my life better and easier.

Occasionally I will find a good brand at the drug store when I am doing my almost free CVS shopping, but I tend to go back to Clinique over and over again. I haven't changed my ways yet. And I am not sure I can.

My name is Mandy, and I am a Clinique addict.

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Consumer Reports and Gyms

Trent over at The Simple Dollar did a great write up about the latest issue of Consumer Reports.

One of my favorites he mentioned:

"Never join a gym without using a free trial period. Most people who join gyms - and sign long, expensive contracts - don’t stick with it. Try getting a free trial - even a week-long one - and use it a few times. Do you honestly see yourself sticking with it? Hopefully, the answer is yes, but if the honest answer is no, don’t spend the cash. (p. 32)"

I got to try out my gym for one week before signing up. I think it was a brilliant move on their part. I liked the gym but I wanted to try the classes and meet the instructors before I committed to a year of membership.

I only wish we had a Bally Total Fitness in our town! Bally and DiscoveryHealth are giving away a free 8 week trial membership! Sign up for their National Body Challenge and get a certificate for 8 free trial weeks at the gym. I was surprised to see them give this away, since you would think that eight weeks would be as long as people needed to see they wouldn't actually stick with it. I think it's quite brilliant though, because they are getting people they wouldn't get otherwise, and if only half stay that is way more than they would have had if they hadn't offered it.

Frugal Confession- I Hate Kids Meals

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to McDonald's and getting a Happy Meal with a special magic doll as a toy. I remember the special box with arches for handles. I loved getting a Happy Meal.

I guess that's why I feel really cheap when I won't buy my own kids a Happy Meal. It's ridiculously expensive. I can't bring myself to pay for two kids meals at McDonald's or anywhere else. Since we have two boys, rather than buying a kids meal for each of them, we often buy larger portioned individual items and split them, or they share with me.

The price of kids meals at sit-down restaurants are usually $3.99 and up, and we save a lot of money by buying side dishes and sharing. It's the McDonald's kids meals I feel bad about. We spend $3 to feed both boys when we go there, which isn't very often. Kids meals would cost us $6. I just wonder if maybe I am being too cheap and I should splurge now and then and go for the kids meal so it's a special treat, and they have memories like I did of the Happy Meal. Or maybe I could just pull out an old toy they don't remember after we go to McDonald's instead... :)

Do you have any Frugal Confessions? Please share them with us- just leave a comment or post about it on your blog and use Mr. Linky to leave your link! Find out more about Frugal Confessions Thursday here.