Down with Debt in 2011 – Our Debt Monster

Hubby and I (and a lot of God’s provision!) have narrowed our debt down to three final accounts:
1. My Student Loans
2. My Car
3. His Dad’s Lowe’s Card
In November 2011, the loan on my car matures.  I owe over $12,000. My car payment is NOT $1000/mth. Mathematically there is NO way this car will be paid off by November 2011.  I called to see if there had been a mistake but there had not.  The additional $3000 + is fees etc. associated with times they “assisted” us during his unemployment. (Thanks for nothing HSBC)
The Lowe’s card stands at $2400 (give or take a couple bucks).  The payment is $86, I have paid $100 for years now.  Every month another $56 gets added to the account. Finance charges they say.  Seems that account has a 29% interest rate. (EVERY SINGLE THING on this card is currently installed somewhere on the house that will be foreclosed on soon)
My Student loans are over $20,000.  We will tackle them in 2012.
After a couple heart to hearts, we have decided that for Christmas 2011 we will be free from the car and Lowe’s. That’s a $15,000 debt monster we intend to slay.  I have NO idea where we will find $1250/month.  That is $550 more than what we already dish out for these two bills.  What I do know is that when it came down to getting Christmas presents I found money.  When it came down to me wanting a new sewing machine I found money.  When hubby wants to take us the water park for the day, I FIND MONEY.
I think part of it is the visual. I see the stuff we buy.  I can’t SEE the debt go away- until now.
I’ve made myself a cute little debt monster.  I’m putting him in the sidebar of my blog and I’m printing him out for the refrigerator.  Isn’t he cute?

I will erase a little bit of him every month, to SHOW how much of a bite we’ve taken out of him. Each line represents $1000.
Should you decide you want to slay your own debt monster this year you can get your own little fridge decor here, in my zazzle store.  Any proceeds go directly to taking a bite out of debt.
If you’d like a debt monster for your blog just ask 🙂

Suddenly, Purposely Unemployed: Making the funds last longer

Now, don’t get me wrong- I love my Starbucks. But I just quit my job. I quit my job with nothing lined up. So, save for long, productive days at the coffee shop, I am giving up my beloved Starbucks. I am giving up a lot of things. But there are some things we can’t/won’t give up. And that’s okay too as long as we’re realistic. On my last day at work I will have enough money to get by for about three months if I stop eating.
I don’t intend to stop eating.
So what on earth am I going to do? This is a great question and the answer is a work in progress. Maybe I should have figured it out before I quit my job but there were a number of factors that went into that decision and it just couldn’t wait any longer. (If you are interested in hearing all about it, feel free to visit my blog) In order to stretch my limited funds, I am already implementing a number of new rules. (If I had started this sooner I might not be so stressed about the money now.)

  • I am making coffee at home. Even if you drink only plain, black coffee (which I usually do) Starbucks is a $60/month obsession and that is for one cup a day. It’s much more than that if you’re going for lattes and those frozen-almost-a-milkshake-but-with-caffeine kind of drinks.
  • Gas is expensive! Are there errands you could run on foot? Do it! You can get your exercise and give up your expensive gym membership and save the gas money. (You may think these are minimal amounts but it adds up. If you are in an area where this is possible, consider it.) Plus, the walk will be good for body and mind.
  • Each of us have a list of things we know we are going to buy on a regular basis. Generally speaking, in regards to the things we know we buy a lot, we know the cheapest place to get them. If you don’t know then start paying attention to how much you spend on these purchases and (assuming it is not a big difference is gas usage) go there. The cheapest place may not be the most convenient, but if money is really tight, every dollar counts.
    • Gas is a big item that we all buy on a regular basis. The difference in price per gallon is not usually huge from one station to another. But how many gallons of gas do you purchase in a year? Figure out where the cheapest gas station is that you already drive by regularly. Start getting all of your gas there.
    • I know that produce is cheapest at the grocery store ½ mile to the east and that meat is cheapest at the grocery store ½ mile to the west. I try to lump my purchases together accordingly. That’s not to say I never pick up a red onion while I’m buying chicken. But the majority of my purchases come from whichever is cheaper now.
  • I am a big basketball fan. I like to go out to watch my team play and I think it is important that I don’t totally abandon all social activities. My first plan of attack on this was to drink fewer drinks during the game. I’m also shopping for the cheapest places to get one drink that I can slowly sip and still enjoy the social atmosphere of watching my boys play while sitting at the bar. (I can’t watch at home- I haven’t paid for cable in 5 years. This, by the way, was the best decision I ever made. Money saved AND time gained!) Also, check out happy hours. I can grab a drink with a friend for $3, have some time out of the house and not feel like I’m seriously impacting my financial state.
  • Food! This is one thing that nearly every person in this country can save money on. It is something every one of us consumes every day. And we can’t stop spending money on it, no matter how much we would like to. But we can:
    • Eat out less. This one explains itself. We all know that eating out costs more than cooking our own meals.
    • Eat out cheaper. For me, the biggest reason I go out to eat is to be social. I am there to enjoy the company but I can easily be suckered into the $14 dollar dinner instead of the $8 burger. But if I am there for the company, the $8 burger is totally sufficient. Maybe even just ordering a side of something if I’m not really all that hungry. I am focusing on the reason I am there. I can enjoy steak at home or the company of eating at a restaurant with friends. I don’t need both.
    • Eat everything I pay for. This is huge. We throw away so much food in this country. Especially those of us that are single. Our grocery stores aren’t set up for us single folk. Very few items are sold in single servings. So we have to commit to eating the same meal three or four days in a row or realize that certain ingredients will go bad before we eat them. I have to eat, and I want to eat good, healthy food. We all love variety but do we need it? Not really. Tonight is the fourth night I have eaten the same salad. It is a great salad. Spinach, heirlooms, red onions, feta and balsamic/olive oil for dressing. Tonight I ran out of spinach. But I am going to snack on the tomatoes until they are gone. The feta will go into a couple of omelets with the red onion- eggs are an excellent, cheap protein. And the eggs are also being brought to work, hard boiled, for lunch. I am really trying not to let any food go bad. (This counts for those restaurant meals too. You don’t have to have a lot left in order to make it a snack later that night. If there is food on your plate, bring it home! Eat it!)

What about you? Have you ever really needed to conserve your money? What corners did you cut?

Brooke Farmer is currently living in Los Angeles. She’s a writer, a blogger, and a freelance hopeful who is looking to create a life where her passions are her priorities. She can be visited atLearning the Language of Brooke Farmer or followed on twitter @brooke_farmer.

Back in the game!

There is ONE BIG thing that has really been a thorn in my side since last spring, my grocery bill.  Last fall, I began playing the grocery game and couponing and was saving money like crazy!  My stockpile helped us get through two months of snow storms with only stopping to pick up milk and bread.  There came a point where sitting at the table with my big fat pregnant belly was uncomfortable.  I didn’t want to cut coupons.  I didn’t want to plan my shopping.  I didn’t even WANT to go shopping.  The only one that suffered was my wallet.  Full price sucks.
Sunday night, I cut out my coupons.  Monday, I reactivated my membership to the Grocery Game.  Tuesday, I came home with $208 worth of groceries at Kroger for only $140.  33% savings.  I’ll take that.
Today, I’m hitting up Food Lion to “steal” some cereal.  (Not a grocerygame.com tip… I don’t subscribe to that store. I just happened to see their weekly flyer)
Even after getting cash back to cover paying my “mommy helper” for the next two Mondays I STILL saved money!!  It’s like I just earned FREE babysitting!
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Yes, you can win with coupons without using that site.  I’m lazy, and it’s convenient.  There is a four week free trial.  The fee is less than the cost of a Sunday paper every week.  If you sign up, please use my email address (memrband3 at gmail ) and help me earn a free week.  If it’s confusing, follow me on twitter and I’ll help you out!  It’s really easy once you do it.