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Archive for September, 2014

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 29th, 2014 at 09:09 am

I skipped a week of updating again, but it seems to work out better this way anyway, I can get some of the bigger amounts checked off if I look at it two weeks at a time.

I had forgotten that S's work reimburses us for his Internet (he's based at home), so I'm counting nine months of that here; I returned some items to CVS (and just happened to hit a round dollar amount for the refund); I had two good trips to Kohl's with 30% off and two $10 free coupons (gotta love it when you save more than 2x what you've spent!), and then miscellaneous Pact and side gig income. Plus, inspired by Banker Gurl Wink, I had $6 in Extra Bucks at CVS, they had a battery sale going on buy one get on 50% off, and a coupon for $2 off an $8 battery purchase. Of course, they didn't have anything that worked out exact, but I found two packs of AA batteries that were $9 with the sale, less the $2 coupon, less $6 in ExtraBucks, so $1 total cost. Not too shabby. Smile

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
[/i]Week 39 (started late, now on my week 33)[/i]

Snowflakes
Pact - $3.86
Work Reimbursement - $202.32
Side Gigs - $11.70
Kohl's Savings - $174.83
CVS Refund - $9.00
CVS Savings - $11.00

Total Snowflakes: $412.71
Rounding (to reserve): $2.71

Beginning Balance: $3405
Deposit: $410
Ending Balance: $3815

Reserve: $1.05 + $2.71 = $3.76

This puts me at 55% of the Mega challenge, and over 75% of my 2014 goal of $5,000.

Success!

September 23rd, 2014 at 08:26 pm

A few months ago I signed S up for Credit Karma, and was unpleasantly surprised when a paid collection showed up on his credit report. (I don't know why I was surprised, it's been on there since 2011, but apparently I'd forgotten all about it!) We did a HARP refinance in 2013, too, and it was never even mentioned during that process. It was a medical collection, so maybe that's why. (The kicker is that is was for one of *my* medical bills, that we were going back and forth with the insurance about. Our insurance is through his work and our cards both have his SSN on them, which I guess is why it showed up on his credit report.)

I've never been too concerned about our credit reports in the past, other than to be sure there were no major inaccuracies. We've never had too many negatives, just lots of debt, so credit repair was never a focus. For various reasons this time, that paid collection bothered me, so I set about to see if I could get it taken off. I started by disputing the debt with TransUnion; they verified it, but did add a note that we disputed it. Then I did some searching and found out that if you stretch things Wink you can sometimes use HIPAA privacy laws to remove medical collections. I found a sample letter, tweaked it to fit our situation, and sent it over -- and it worked!

We got a letter back from the collection agency saying they were writing to the credit bureaus to remove the information from his credit report. That was early August; I had to wait until mid-September to get his free annual credit reports again, but meanwhile was watching the TU report in Credit Karma, which continued to have the collection listed. Last week I checked and the Equifax and Experian reports had dropped it, but TU still had it.

Yesterday, I disputed the item again with TU (they have an online dispute function) and included the letter from the collection agency. The first dispute took 30 days to get an answer -- this one they answered right away, and they deleted the collection. Woot! Smile

Coincidentally, a collection on my own credit report was deleted within the same timeframe -- different collection agency, different bill (though same health issue). Both were scheduled to drop off in 2017, so we gained two years there.

I also sent goodwill letters to two creditors to ask them to remove a couple of 30-day lates (one each) but that didn't get me anywhere. Frown They're from 12/2008 and 12/2010, so I'm guessing they're not going to have a whole lot of weight overall. (One wasn't even our fault, they suddenly stopped withdrawing the automatic payment from our bank without telling us they were going to stop. They never actually responded to my letter at all, but we paid the account in full a couple of years ago, so maybe they don't really care anymore.)

I'll be interested to see if this makes much of a difference in S's 'FAKO' credit score that Credit Karma provides. (He has a Discover card but hasn't used it in years, and you have to have an account statement to get your free credit score from them. He shreds the cards as soon as he gets them in the mail, so we'll have to wait until the new one comes, whenever that might be, and then have him use it once a month for some small thing we pay off right away!)

In the grand scheme of things this is a small thing, but given the difficulties so many people have with the credit bureaus, I feel like it's a huge victory!

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 16th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Slow-ish week, but I've had worse! I had $65.60 from a side gig and $21.19 reimbursement from a mouse I bought for my work PC that I completely forgot I paid for until now. The Chase Freedom card statement closed last week so I did the rounding for $37.82, and then some miscellaneous Pact earnings and CVS savings.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 37 (started late, now on my week 31)

Snowflakes
Pact - $2.04
Chase Rounding - $37.82
Side Gig - $65.60
Mouse Reimbursement - $21.19
CVS - $2.68

Total Snowflakes: $129.33
Rounding (from reserve): $0.67

Beginning Balance: $3275
Deposit: $130
Ending Balance: $3405

Reserve: $1.72 - $0.67 = $1.05

This puts me at 49% of the Mega challenge, and over 2/3 of my 2014 goal of $5,000. One of my writing gigs finally has assignments available again, so hopefully I'll be able to pick up some good snowflakes from that over the next few weeks!

Chase Freedom Rewards

September 15th, 2014 at 06:58 am

Chase Freedom Rewards points came in today. I've estimated about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was just a tiny bit shy at $47.59. The 5% category this quarter is gas, but that only got me about $8 this time, as I don't drive much in August. (S has a company car so they pay for his gas.) I have another 450-miles-in-three-days weekend at the end of the month, which will boost up gas spending.

Starting Balance: $645.19
Ending Balance: $692.78

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $500.00
Remaining - $0.00

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $100.00
Remaining - $0.00

Excess
Beginning Balance: $45.19
Current Rewards: $47.59
Ending Balance: $92.78

At this point I'm just going to let the excess build up, and then see where/if I need it at the end of the year (gifts, 52 Week Challenge, etc.)

Impatient!

September 11th, 2014 at 10:06 am

I have recently begun to completely understand the value of "snowballing" debt payoff vs. "avalanching" it. While I know the avalanche makes more financial sense and that's the plan I have set up, I'm smack in the middle of a five-year plan and am just itching for those payoffs to start!

I did pay off one card in July, a few months early, but it was a low-interest, low-balance, low payment card, so while paying it off felt good, it didn't really pack much punch. A smiley face, rather than a gold star, I guess.

Looking at my payoff schedule, though, I have my first avalanched balance due to be paid off in February 2015. (And that balance should only be around $90 so I will probably just pay the whole thing off in January.) I also have one of my hardship repayments that will be paid off in February, just by doing the minimums. Then I have cards getting paid off in March, April, June, August, and October.

(I may even do some debt consolidation to a lower interest rate, so some of those may be technically paid off even sooner, but I want to make sure I'm doing the logical thing and not the emotional thing, there.)

From there I have a couple more cards and a P2P loan, which will all be done by June 2016. (And then of course I have 401(k) loans and personal loans and real estate loans....)

So I'm far from being anywhere near debt-free, but I am so, so ready to be credit card debt free!!
I can't even explain -- and probably don't need to, really, for most people here -- how exciting it is to see the end of credit card debt in sight, after having it hanging over my head for the last 20 years. I find myself obsessively checking my bank account and Mint to be sure I've credited every penny correctly and the payments are on the right schedule, etc. I'm sure subconsciously I'm hoping I'll check and the balance will miraculously be zero!

Off to sing myself a little Carly Simon song and maybe have a little ketchup.... Wink

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 8th, 2014 at 08:02 am

I missed last week on this, but it was worth the wait! Several good snowflakes came through the last couple of weeks. I got a $50 rebate from my contact lenses; S got a $50 check for his birthday; I found $8 I'd forgotten about at the bottom of my purse; I took back bottles for $56.90. S is working on a project with the help of his cousin, who is retired military; they went to Lowe's to buy some supplies and cousin got us a 10% discount. We also had a return, rounding from the checking account in August, and I decided to count the $150 I'm saving on my hair by switching to a stylist that works out of her home rather than a salon. Plus my DietBet ended and the final round paid out $171.68 - woot! (That ended up with a total payout of $328.96, less the initial bet of $125, for a net gain of $203.96.) Then some various Pact earnings (plus I'm penalizing myself the $10 they took when I simply forgot to log two vegetables. Duh!), a small side gig and CVS savings.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 36 (started late, now on my week 30)

Snowflakes
Found cash - $8
Pact - $13.73
Lowe's Discount - $21.80
Book Review - $3.01
Birthday - $50.00
Bottle Return - $56.90
Rounding - $12.28
ING Interest - $1.52
Refund - $19.22
Contact Rebate - $50.00
CVS - $2.18
Hair - $150.00
DietBet - $171.68

Total Snowflakes: $560.32
Rounding (to reserve): $0.32

Beginning Balance: $2715
Deposit: $560
Ending Balance: $3275

Reserve: $1.40 + $0.32 = $1.72

This puts me at 48% of the Mega challenge, and almost 2/3 of my 2014 goal of $5,000. It also helped clear off a couple of the big amounts, although there are still plenty to cross off!

August Look Back / September Look Ahead

September 7th, 2014 at 11:51 am

Slightly behind on this, what else is new?

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

August
August is property tax month for our home, which means the bank account takes a pretty big hit. It's a known and planned-for expense, but it still twinges a little bit not to see that nice big savings balance!

The garden is limping along -- other people have said this year is even worse than last year for gardening (and last year they said it was the worst ever), so I guess we're not doing too badly. The tomatoes are finally starting to take off, and we're actually looking like we may have more than we can consume before they go bad -- something we didn't at all have to worry about last year! None of us is really interested in canning, so we're going to look into possible ways to freeze them.

I passed my second licensing exam at the end of the month, so I guess in about 30 days I'll be officially licensed. At some point that's supposed to translate to a financial benefit, but I'm not sure exactly when that will happen.

On the debt front, I paid off $2,532 in debt in August, paid out $777 in interest, and put $291 extra to my current avalanche debt.

September
Rental property taxes are due at the end of September; that's another bite out of the savings account, but only about half as much as our home taxes. There's really not much going else on for September, as far as I can foresee. I may spend a chunk more than planned on yard maintenance.

We have a 'landscape' area behind our fenced yard that has run wild the last several years; we cleared it out last year but of course it all came back again. At this point it's beyond what we could do in a weekend, so I'm going to get a few quotes to have it a) cleared out and b) weed-blocked and either mulched or (better) filled in with rock, and the one area that's visible to the neighborhood given some design other than 'big pine tree and whatever weeds grow around it'. (The big pine tree needs to come down, actually.) I doubt I'll be willing to pay for it all, but I might at least shell out to have it cleared. (I have some money leftover from the rental a/c that didn't end up needing replacement, and a plan to save back up for replacing it in 2015.) The backup plan is to let the bulk of it die off over the winter, and do the cleanup/fill in the spring.