Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It’s the Most Spend-er-ful Time of the Year!

We hope you and yours had a fabulous holiday season!!! Read on to find out what we learned this year.

For the past couple months, I’ve been spending money like it’s my job: boots, baby stuff, Christmas presents, a car…obviously that last one is the kicker.  I had a not-so-safe vehicle situation.  My lovely Pontiac G6 had a recall because the brake lights decided every day was opposite day: they were on unless I pushed on the break.  With Tutu in the back, I didn’t feel safe driving that car.  Why not get it fixed? Well, I tried once before the recall (naturally it wasn’t doing it consistently then), and the recall announcement informed us that they didn’t have the parts to fix it yet.  Got to love GM.  I apologize if you or someone you know works for GM.  I’m bitter.

One Friday night this fall, Mama, Tutu, and I went to the car lot.  Mama is very experienced in the area of buying cars.  She’s my representative at the dealership.  Tutu is cute and hilarious.  Together they make a formidable team.  I hate buying cars.  I like having a new car, but I don’t like what you have to go through to get it.  Anyway, I have almost no tips on how to get a good deal once you’re there. 

Before you go, it’s super important to do your research.  I ended up knowing more about the inventory that the sales person we were working with.  Know about the cars you’re interested in (most lots have the inventory online), get the Kelly Blue Book and NADA values of the new car(s) and your trade-in, and be ready to argue.   

I am the new owner of a Mitsubishi Outlander.  I love it.  Did I need it? Probably not.  Are we even further in debt? Definitely.  Now it’s time to put our noses to the grindstone and pay off a bunch of money.

2015 is the year of living WAAAAAAY below our means.  Here’s the plan: we are going to do our best to live on my income and put all of Zach’s toward debt.  If I did the math right (good chance I didn’t, but I really think I did), we can do it.  As soon as we get a Z paycheck, I’ll immediately transfer it to a designated savings account (we named it “Debt”).  When I make a debt payment, I’ll transfer the money and immediately pay the bill.  It’ll be like the money was never in our checking account. 

We’re considering getting a separate checking account that doesn’t have a debit card.  We do all our banking online, so it’s not really necessary.  Speaking of debit cards, I’m going to start leaving mine at home.  I’m going to use cash for as much as I can.

Tip: watch this Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey’s daughter) vlog for a way to keep a cute wallet and still do the envelope system: I’m going to do that.  Instead of just hoping to stick to my budget, I’m going to withdraw the cash at the beginning of the month in the categories I typically overspend: groceries, eating out, and personal money.  Those are the instances that I usually just swipe the debit card. Gas will still be a debit card situation.  With winter in full swing around here, there’s no way I’m spending any more time outside than I have to!

How much have we been eating out lately?  I would guess about half of our meals in the past few months have not been at home.  Well, we might have eaten them at home, but they sure weren’t made at home! January 1 means no more eating out (or very very little) and switching back to a strict, vegan diet.  Zach and I are big fans of the Skinny Bitch/Bastard series.  We have three of the books and two cookbooks.  No more excuses.  It’s time to get skinny/fit! (Zach hates the word “skinny”.)

I know this is all super cliché.  No one makes plans to change for the better in a new year! I wonder how many products exist pertaining to New Year’s resolutions.  Probably millions.  We’re hoping to stick to ours not just for the new year, but for the rest of our lives.  Here’s to New Life Resolutions! 

Happy New Year!

The Steins

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where Have You Been?!

Is it December already??? So much has happened in the past three months!  We moved, Tutu turned 1 (!), Zach got a new job, I’ve fallen into a major spending pit…  We’ll talk more about that later.

On today’s agenda: we moved!  I can’t believe all the money it is saving us.  I didn’t realize all the extra bills that come along with renting a house (in our experience): water, sewer, garbage, recycling, and probably more I can’t think of right now.  Those are just the bills!  We've already been able to pay off our two smallest loans and are halfway to paying off our third!  Zach no longer has to shovel or mow, and I no longer have to feel bad that I didn’t landscape!  I hated staring at the overgrown plants, but not enough to do something about it.  I hate gardening.  We also have to clean less since our space is smaller. 

Let’s talk about that. Our space is much smaller.  The house we were renting had 4 bedrooms and a formal dining room.  To me, formal dining room equals a good sized space.  We only used two of the bedrooms.  We had a guest room and office upstairs, but they ended up being more of catch-all rooms.  We managed to get rid of A LOT of stuff.  We had to make 4 bedrooms of stuff fit in a 2 bedroom apartment. Did I mention that this apartment has 1 storage closet (slightly bigger than a typical coat closet) and 1 linen closet?  Yeah.  It’s tight.  How did we do it?  Well, we sold some stuff, but mostly we gave it away.  We posted some furniture via the blog and managed to sell almost all of it within a week.  The remainders were sold via Craigslist.  That was a good little chunk of change in the ‘ole pocketbook.  I tried taking some clothes to the consignment shop, but they rejected most of it (they’re really picky; some of it was wrinkled. Seriously.).  I made a rule that once it left the house it didn’t come back in, ever.  It all lived in my car until we took everything to the Salvation Army. 

We sold some of Tu’s stuff in the garage sale (not much), and took the rest to our local Crisis Nursery.  They do great work for mothers in need.  It makes me smile knowing the stuff we donated is making the caretakers’ lives just a little easier.  The toys might also be putting some smiles on tiny faces.  Once I packed her room and realized how much I missed while sifting through for the garage sale, we had another good sized lot to take over to the nursery.  Next we’re taking her bottles and leftover formula.  My baby is a toddler!

Mama and I (with a little help from my friend Liz) ended up painting every room in the apartment.  The existing wall color was a little too close to the color of skin, and one wall (an accent wall, I guess) in Tu’s room was hunter green. That took a good two weekends of work.  You notice every single wall and trim issue while you’re doing that.  Let’s just say the previous tenants were not as precise painters as Mama and me.  I might be painting the trim come spring.  

That is just one of many apartment projects on my list.  I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew. My goal with this place is to really make it feel like home.  We have every intention of staying here until all our debt is paid.  I don’t want to move again unless it’s a house that we own.  I have a theory: if I put a lot of work into our apartment, I’ll want to stay longer.  I’ve moved at least every year since I was 17.  I get the 1 year itch for some change.  I’ll just have to find said change elsewhere; new curtains maybe.  Here is my current project list:
Make mason jar storage for bathroom.
Put up wallpaper as pseudo-backsplash in kitchen.
 Paint side table for living room.
Paint bistro table and stools?
Hang curtain rods and curtains in bedrooms.
 Paint dresser.
 Finish gallery wall in living room.
Frame chalkboard on living room wall.
Paint island/refinish top.
Re-organize kitchen cabinets.
Figure out a pantry?
Put hardware on cabinets?
Paint doors and trim
Spray paint door knobs.
Hang light in living room attached routed switch.

I might be insane. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!  Will she get any of these done???