Cleaning, Day 10: Money Matters…

April 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

I had a terrible scare tonight.  Followed by a moment of pure euphoria, followed by minor disappointment.  It was quite a ride.

I don’t know if I’ve actually written about money here or if I’ve just alluded to it.  Recently it was revealed to me that my husband and I are deeper in debt than I ever realized.  And by ‘deeper’, I’m talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 or more.  When Andy confessed all, we had over $12,000 on a credit card, plus at least $35,000 rolled into our mortgage thanks to a refi about 18 months ago.    To say I was unhappy to hear this is a gross understatement, though I will say that it does not appear at this time that there’s anything more alarming than just ‘extremely bad money management’ going on.   Granted, $47K is a lot of money, but it has accumulated over the course of at least four or five years.  Much of the $12K on credit cards was due to Andy using those horrible credit card checks to rob Peter to pay Paul.  Bad, BAD move.  And he really should have known better.

My point here isn’t to rat out my husband to my friends, but rather to illustrate where we are now.  Once this was confessed and the situation examined, Andy turned our finances over to me and I sat down to figure out a budget.  This is actually something I had begged him to do for a long time, but Andy always demurred.  I think he knew that we were living outside our means (I mean, he HAD to know!) and making a budget would force him to face that, admit it, etc.  It was too hard to face, so he put it off and never gave me a good idea of what my spending limits were.  (I, by the way, do not use credit cards at all.)   Therefore, I just spent what I felt I had to, trying to stay within some reasonable limits, and in so doing contributed to our debt problem without knowing I was doing it.

So.  Now I know where we stand.  Frankly, the only thing that really upsets me is that A) Andy lied to me about it, and B) he allowed us to have some expensive monthly indulgences (Satellite TV, Cell phones, etc.) even though we obviously couldn’t afford them.   I’ll admit those things are nice, but I’m not sure being able to record Murder She Wrote and watch it whenever I want to is quite worth what we’re going through now.

The good thing is that God takes care of us.  Once this all came out, I was able to sort out some things and get some help from my parents.  Between their help, a cashed-out life insurance policy I hold and our tax refund, I was able to get the credit card debt down to about $3500.   The mortgage stands, but for the time being we’re able to make those payments just fine.  In fact, when it was all said and done, the only debt we have is that $3500 on one credit card and the mortgage.  The van is now paid off, the Kia is paid off, and we’re pretty good.

Now that I have a budget, though, my food costs are more of a concern.   With ADF in play, I’m only eating every other day…which certainly helps.  But the foods I want to eat on my Up Days are much more expensive now.  I want fresh fruit, I want whole grain, multigrain cereal and bread, etc.  Those things aren’t cheap, and now I find myself having to choose between nutrition and price.   It can be really frustrating, but it’s teaching me the value of making a meal plan and sticking to it.   I have to keep reminding myself not to impulse buy, which has been the biggest challenge.  It used to be that I would just go to the store and get whatever I thought we needed, without really paying attention to the price.  Now I’m full-out comparison shopping, pulling out coupons, the whole nine yards.   I feel sheepish that I didn’t do this before, to be honest, but we usually buy a lot of generics anyway. :/

All told, Money is a huge source of consternation, but I feel pretty good about what I’ve done so far.

Oh..but my crash-high-moderate?   When my parents helped out, I asked them to loan us $2,000 so that I could arrange our budget so that our mortgage came out of the second paycheck of the previous month, rather than out of the first paycheck of the month in which it was due.  Andy isn’t paid until the 6th of each month, so it was going in late every month.  I don’t think the lateness was actually a problem, since it still got paid before the cutoff date, but still.

So tonight while I was walking I checked our finances.  I had sent off some bills and wanted to see what had cleared and what hadn’t.   When I called up our account online and I saw that we had about $900 in the bank.   This caused a momentary panic, because our mortgage alone is over $1300/mo.  Then I scrolled down and realized that the mortgage had, in fact, already come out!  WHOAH!  So we had $900 even AFTER the mortgage?  Awesome!   For a moment, I thought I would even have money to put into savings!  SAVINGS!  Imagine that!  Go me!

Then, of course, I thought to check the spreadsheet I’d made of our ‘money flow’, which I use as a guideline to help me know how the money rolls from month to month.  I realized then that I would have expected to have about $850 in the bank after the mortgage came out, and that that money is needed for the other buills we’d need to pay before Andy’s next paycheck.   So oh well.. but still, we’re $50 ahead of schedule, so that’s good!

I think I may take one of these 21-day runs and do what Nicole did once… She wrote down every penny she spent on everything for a month, just to keep track..  Not just balancing a checkbook, but even right down to coins thrown in fountains or quarters used to buy gum.  Sort of like Food Journalling, but with money.    I could see that being a fairly useful exercise at this point.

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