Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So THAT is why we aren't getting anywhere!!!

I have really been racking my brain (which, is full of holes at this point....) on why we aren't making more progress.  If others can do it...so can we!  So what about our plan isn't working.....Then it finally came to me.  The reason we aren't making more progress....is we are PLANNING.

I can hear you all now.....Huh?  Mysti....you really are off your rocker.  Since when is planning the reason that something doesn't work?  That is so counter intuitive.

Oh, but listen, my little grasshoppas....

I looked at our budget and where all the moola is going, and it dawned on me.  We are SAVING for PLANNED expenses.  In the past...we would hope that we could use our three paycheck months to cover the shortfall.  There were some things we would put on a credit card, and then we really didn't think about them as expenses, because they just fell into the abyss known as DEBT.

Last April, I opened our first ING account, and have since opened several more.  These have allowed us to save for planned expenses, and to actually visually see where it all is.  And we are now paying CASH for things that either previously went on a credit card, or we shuffled around to make ends meet.

  • We saved $1,000 CASH for the kids' camp.  They didn't take credit cards, so that wasn't even an option.  Last year, Nannie paid for camp (which was great, because we hadn't saved enough.....).  This year, we had it, no problem.

  • The kids' birthday is coming up at the end of August.  They will each have a party (their first one since they were 4, and they will be 9).  I researched the cost (she is having a spa party, he is having a bowling party), and saved up.  I saved $700 for their parties, gifts, cakes, and their special dinner on their birthday.  Probably more than I need, but the left over will roll into the Christmas account.   Now, I realize that is ALOT for a birthday....but this is for 2 kids' parties, and they haven't had one in 5 years. 

ETA:  Please remember....I have a child with Autism.  He simply will not tolerate having people in the house for a party.  Kids "touching" his stuff....will set him over the edge and he will not even attend his own party.  We can't do parties the way the rest of the world does.  He likes bowling....he understands what happens there.  We can do a party for him and have him have FUN...and that is important to us. 

Sassy....her party will be for her and 3 friends.  She doesn't have friends.  She doesn't get invited to parties.  She doesn't have playdates.  She is the kid that has "that brother."  If she has a friend over, Bossy goes into hysterics, and it is a mess. 

No one has to agree with us on this one.  But if you take a 9 year old kid who has had ONE party in their life......I don't think we are being over indulgent.

(I should add that originally this was going to be for G-man's 40th birthday bash....but after this year of issues, I decided against holding it, and decided that it would go to the kids).

  • The boat.  My nemesis.  It needs some repairs.  We are now saving $40 a month toward that.

  • The cars.  Having a car maintenance fund has saved our tushies a few times.  It has covered oil changes, wiper blades, a few smaller repairs.  Granted, it didn't do squat when we had the $2,000 transmission bill.  But over the past year, I guarantee ever last one of those expenses would have been on a credit card if we didn't have an account for this.  We save $140 a month for insurance and maintenance.
  • Christmas!!!  We are all guilty of charging up Christmas.  And last year I planned to not do it....and then did.  Not this year.  We have a Christmas fund.  We are saving $230 a month for Christmas right now (this fund is still small....we had to save for camp and birthdays first).  And we decided that the kids really don't need alot of fancy stuff...she is really happy with books.  He is harder, but again, fancy doesn't do it for him.  We budgeted for gifts, cards, postage, the tree....and when the money is gone, it is gone.  I am not going into more debt for this. 
  • Irregular expenses.  These are things like the 2x a year car tax bill, 2x a year water bill, quarterly trash bill.  Those things you know exist...but sort of ignore until you have to deal with them.  Not anymore.  I save for them, to the tune of $80 a month.

After I thought about all of this.....THERE is where my debt repayment money is.  I used to think I should have at least $500 more a month to repay debt.  NO....we were living above our means, and now that $500 is being saved for REAL expenses.

I can beat myself up for not slashing through our debt in Gazelle style.  But I am not going to.  We are living a more realistic budget now.  (Even if the food budget is STILL crazy, and gas prices aren't helping either).  Baby steps.

Dave Ramsey might not be proud per se....but he at least wouldn't call us an idiot.


  1. Wait, so does this mean you are making progress, since you aren't putting all those extra things on a credit card? I think so.

    I know you are worried about not paying debt down fast, but when I look at your numbers you are paying more than $6,000 a year. That is nothing to scoff at.

    You have done a great job and are still doing it. You have some of the worst luck:), but you are still so persistent. It is really inspiring, I hope you know that. If you can do it with so much adversity, then others should know they can do it too.

  2. I'm with Nikki - not charging what you used to routinely charge is definite progress! Half the battle is not seeing the numbers go UP - you're rockin' it!


  3. I feel the same way. We moved in with my in-laws in february to save some money. We ahvent saved anything but we have paid cash for so many things. You think where did all of your money go? Then you realize it didnt go on your credit card and thats a good thing!

  4. And! Can you give more information about how ING accounts work? Or how you use them for your family? Do you have accounts for vacation, christmas and other thigns you need to save for? Thanks!

  5. Hi Mysti: I'd like to say this as gently as I can...if you want to get out of debt as soon as you can, you are spending too much money on parties, Christmas etc. Of course your kids deserve to have fun and celebrate life, can you show them how to have fun without spending a lot of money? Don't feel guilt because your kids don't get big parties every year. I only say this because I sense a great deal of frustration, that you can't get out of debt. Planning and saving are wonderful. For a few years any money not needed for survival should go to debt, if your goal is to get out of debt asap. You will be setting a great example for your kids.

  6. I would say that life happens but I would probably get all kinds of nasty emails LOL

    Sorry, I hope you can find a little bit more money each month and apply it to the debt.


  7. You are doing the right thing saving for all of these expenses. This is living within your means 101. Your party plans are a little high for me, but you may think I take too many mini vacations. Does an extra $500.00 toward debt a year versus a B-party for kids make a difference to you? Personally I would go with the party for that little a difference. You are doing fine remember we are all at different levels of this game.

  8. @Niki - thanks for the words of encouragement!

    @Sarah - unfortunately, some of the numbers go up from time to time....we are still working on that one.

    @couplesaving - I couldn't live with my in-laws. You are strong!! I will do an ING post soon, promise!

    @Anon1 - the kids' parties...they NEVER get a party...at all. I budgeted $250 per party. Their party will not be on their birthday, so they will have a cake on their b-day, and then at the party. We budgeted $30 per gift. Socialization is an issue for us, and we are hoping this will help a little. And I have to disagree on Christmas. We have $1,000 budgeted for gifts for 2 kids (including Santa), us, 2 sets of grandparents, all the teachers and therapists (about 10 total), a few work colleagues, a few friends, plus tree, cards, etc. I don't think that is unreasonable.

    @HS - life does happen...but we are planning for it.

    @Kim - Like I said above....the parties and Christmas are outlined. When you have twins, it LOOKS like it is more money because it is shelled out at the same time.

  9. I think you are doing wonderful. You have a plan and it is working. You had the money for camp, you have the money for the parties and you are planning for Christmas. That means you have a plan and goals and you are achieving them.

    As for the kids parties we all spend money where we need to. I am saving to send my daughter to Italy..I mean really I could use that money for the debt BUT this is a great opportunity for her. Right now the parties are important for you and probably for them. They have had a rough year also, and when you sacrifice as a family you should also get some rewards.

    Enjoy there party. Your not incurring new debt, you have planned and saved.


  10. You are really generous on the kid party thing. I was looking at Lego favors for $40. I was getting a little hostile about thinking of spending that amount.

  11. I guess I'm a cheapskate, but we spend money on the kids for Christmas, and spend money on no one else (not even each other.) So we spend less than what you quoted on Christmas.

    As for parties, I really think kids can and should be OK with a cake, some of those little ice cream cups, maybe a pizza if you want to go crazy, and some party favor games and pin the tail on the donkey. It may sound lame, but when did it become a tradition in our country to have spa parties for kids? Bowling - maybe - but when I grew up, people just had parties at home (sure, some kids had bowling alley parties but everyone knew they were expensive.) Sorry to be a scrooge, but when you have major debt, it seems like the kids could have fun without costing a lot of money to throw a party. It's supposed to be about getting together with your friends and having some streamers (cost: about 99 cents) and balloons and opening some cheap presents the friends bring (Barbie dolls, Lite Brite, along those lines.)

    This may not fit with your value system so you may find the advice worthless, but I wouldn't spend anywhere near that much money on a kids' party. I know we have similar debt levels, and I just want to cut down on your frustration level in the progress department, which is why I gave my opinion.

  12. By the way, at least one of our kids has gone a few years without a party, also, and it wasn't because I didn't want to spend - it was because I planned poorly. I made it up to him with a party 4 months late for his birthday (hey, better late than never) with a Halloween theme since it was so far from his birthday it was getting close to that holiday) and we had a cake I made that was Halloween-ish. Everyone had a blast. At this point we only have our own selves around a table for parties - lame, maybe... I guess I don't really do parties "right," but I don't think you have to spend more just because you let it lapse for a while.

  13. @Judy - you are right...we all spend our money on what we think is important. And if I planned for it...then so be it.

    @Super - see above notes on the kids' party.

    @444 - I didn't let the party thing lapse. We don't have family here. The kids don't have friends. And I am not trying to make up for not having a party in the past. See notes above....we can't do a home party.

  14. you need to stop apologizing for the fact that you are choosing to LIVE your life rather than be a slave to your debt, a la Ramsey. I don't agree with Ramsey just because he basically wants you to be a pauper and not have any fun until your debt is paid off. It's unrealistic. Yes, you should work on paying off debt and be serious about it, but damn, a person has to LIVE too! The important thing is to find a balance. Do the best you can. Don't beat yourself up about a birthday party! I hope you guys have fun :)

  15. SO I just went back and re-read some of the comments, and let me just say--I have fond memories of all the effort that my mom took to make parties. You only really get parties when you're a little kid. My dad, who grew up very poor, never had parties, so every year, he always wants one and acts like a little kid. It's a big deal to him. I don't understand why everyone is giving you so much crap. $700 ($350 for each child) is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Try and keep it under $500 for both, and you'll have an extra $250 for christmas. You're still paying off a lot this year toward your debt.

  16. I have a kid with autism, and I guess my other kids are the kids with "that sister," although I never thought of it that way. I wonder if you need to work on the way you think about some things. I know how hard it is. Maybe your daughter needs some better quality friends (real friends) if they think of her as the girl with "that brother."

    I do know how hard it is; in our case, being in another location is a crapshoot as to whether behavior will be great or problematic (to say the least - since the topic is parties - behavior degrading to where we might have to leave someone else's party early.)

    So do what's best for your situation. You don't have to be so defensive - it's your money... it just sounded like you are gathering a lot of supporting reasons to spend more than some of us spend on parties and holidays but it's your business, of course... my husband is thinking of spending $750 on a guitar, so there you go (he pledges to clean out and sell his massive amount of "stuff" to pay for it, though.) The reason I said "defensive" is that you seemed to mention that you didn't have a party for years and I thought that was the definition of "lapse," and then you protested the word "lapse" and explained about distant family and lack of friends... Then you said on the same line that your daughter doesn't have friends and said she's having her 3 friends to her party. Plain and simple, there are ways to spend less on parties and your son could be somewhere else in the house if she were having a home party. Sorry to deconstruct it but it's not that you can't have a home party. Many people prefer having parties at places - in fact, is it gauche and old-fashioned to have cake and ice cream at home these days? I think it is, but we do it anyway; I hope the kids are OK with it. You're probably spending what "average" people spend and I spend like a cheapskate, so I guess that's what it boils down to.

  17. @444 - I am looking at years that we didn't have parties not as a "lapse" because we chose not to do it...not because we couldn't. Or more to the point, Bossy just couldn't handle it, no matter what. We want the kids to have a successful socialization. And we are stacking the deck to make sure that happens.

    Maybe I am being defensive. But I do feel that because we are choosing to do something SPECIAL (as in, not all the time) for our kids, we are getting attacked.

    If I threw a 40th birthday party for G-man, as originally planned....and had friends and his mom (I can't really say family since it would just be her), and I spent this much, would everyone still think it was too much?

    And no, we can't have it at home. Just the act of having people in the house will set him off. And I am not going to ruin ANOTHER day for Sassy because she will have to listen to her brother screaming upstairs.

    Yeah...now I am upset. But not because people disagree with me, but rather that my kids put up with alot....and I want to reward this ONE time. And every birthday that they have is a blessing....when your kids are only given a 10% chance of survival...you treasure every day.

  18. Mysti no matter what YOUR KIDS YOUR DECISIONS. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about anything you decide. I get crap because I send mine to Catholic School..again MY DECISION...MY KIDS.

    You have had a rough year, the kids have had a rough year. Don't let anyone make you feel small or give them the right to judge you. We post blogs to talk to people and make friends with people in similar situations as us.

    I hope they have the best parties in the world. Your sons party is perfect for him and your daughters is perfect for her. You know your kids. And if anyone doesnt like it Oh Well...


  19. I think you are doing the absolute right thing with the kids parties. I really do. You are saving for different things instead of charging them, you're working YOUR debt reduction plan and if you go so gazelle intense you can't have a birthday party,well I think that would be getting your priorities wrong.
    Just keep doing what you're doing and ignore the critics.

  20. Mysti, 444 can have her opinion, but it is you blog , your kids, your life. Here you are showing that you are reducing debt, and also being prepared to plan and set money asside so that you don't go into further debt. This should be a celebation. Not an oppurtunity for 444 to have a go at you

    I find it very bizarre that a mother with an autistic child would have a go at another mother with an autistic child, and tell her to change how she thinks about things. Nice support there from 444. If 444 wants to be constructive perhaps a PM to you with some support.

    As I have said before, I have added what I believe are 'constructive comments' on your site in the past, however I like to try and make sure there is no sting in them. THis is the second time I have seen commentors post and be a bit nasty to you. Un-effing- believable.

    For the record I think the kids will look back fondly with this. It must have been a tough year for them as well, even though I am sure you try and shield them from the worst. What a lovely high point to the year.

  21. I am just amazed that you are able to figure out a realistic amount that you will spend...and then find the money in your budget to save for those things! You are plugging the hole and not going farther into debt...except for things totally out of your control like a 2000 dollar transmission. You have been doing so good at staying strong when you get "the wants". You are getting better and better at living on a budget and you are inspiring me with every post so that I can keep going on my budget...when I get "the wants" I come read your blog and it helps me stay strong...although I really do want some new clothes:)

  22. Hey, I didn't mean to be nasty or "have a go." Is anyone really being fair by saying that? Was anyone else nasty? I'm sorry; the post title was something about not getting anywhere with money and it seemed like the post was a review of money planning. Some parties were mentioned and I was not the only one to say cutting back on party costs might be a good idea. I said I realize I may be a fuddy-duddy to spend less (a cheapskate?) on parties. I think anyone being fair would see that I don't "attack." Sorry that I gave an opinion. I will not again. Not here, I mean.

    Don't take things out of context. The part about changing a way of thinking is something you might not understand if you don't have a developmentally disabled person in your family or one with similar challenges and issues. It's easy to feel labeled and ostracized by others, but real friends don't think of you as "that family" or the mom with or the kid with "that child" or "that brother." I was responding to that. And to the notion that the daughter has "no friends" and the implication that the brother ruins the good times she could have at home with friends. I wonder what kind of friends are bothered by a disabled person being in the house. This all sounded like a spiral that could be reversed through realizing that people with disabilities are a fact of life and everyone in this world better get used to it and better have some tolerance, for everyone's sake. Everyone would benefit from some acceptance. I thought fun could be had while including all kids in the family and I thought that didn't preclude having fun at home. A party anywhere else is fine, too. We started out talking about party costs but it moved on to considerations caused by disabilities and I know all about that. Again, a thousand pardons. I don't know who was nasty but I sure hope it was not me.

    As I said (and that was glossed over), spend on what you want. We all have things we like to spend on and other things that we cut corners on. Speaking of support, I did say to Mysti that I have a child with autism and I understand, and that we face similar issues, and speaking of support, I didn't hear her acknowledge that or send support back... Maybe that doesn't matter but I noticed it. I'm done - I won't say another thing, but don't mischaracterize what I said.

    Mysti - maybe if you don't sound as if you're unsure about whether your spending decisions are OK, people won't give input that will annoy you. Sorry for my input and commentary.

  23. I am a regular reader but I'm opting to post anonymously because I don't like sharing some of this with the entire world. If you can figure out which reader I am, don't spread it around.

    I stopped having birthdays when I was 7. I might have been 8 but I doubt it. I don't really remember any parties. There are pictures of them when I was growing up so I know I had a few.

    It wasn't that I didn't want parties or that my mom didn't want to throw me one. She had separated from my father and there were three children in the same month. There just wasn't a budget for a party. Sometimes there wasn't a budget for food. My youngest sister would die if she knew it (the middle one refuses to acknowledge it) but sometimes the food on our table had been in a dumpster prior to our getting it. My mother and I would go out at night (often with another lady my mom knew) and find food behind grocery stores that had been discarded and was still edible.

    Knowing that, how could I expect a party? We did have a "party" for the three of us around this time. My mother found a discarded bag of pastries from the bakery and we feasted on those while celebrating our three birthdays. We always got a gift. It usually was some $5-$10 toy from a discount store but it was something.

    Things got better as the years went by but money was always extremely tight. I think this is why I am so obsessive about it at times today. My youngest sister had a very small party almost every year. By myself and the middle sister, we usually just had a birthday dinner out at a cheap place to eat.

    So, in that respect, $350 for each kid's party is just mind-blowing. I can't even imagine that.

    Look, it's your money and they are your kids. When it comes right down to it, you are going to do what you think is right. But $1,000 for camp and $700 for parties and $1,000 for Christmas -- it all seems like a lot. You have almost $3,000 worth if expenses there. There has to be some way to trim the fat.

    I know you have a child on the spectrum. I know they haven't had parties in years. I know these things. But can you really afford to spend that much when you're this deep in debt? Can you find a more affordable way to make a special day for them without spending nearly a grand? Can you economize for Christmas and cut that budget in half? The economy is bad, people understand if you can't spend as much this year as before.

    The one thing you can't change is camp because I assume it is past us. It seems like a lot for me but depending on your needs it may have been necessary. I don't know. But with Christmas and the birthdays, there is probably a way to find another $1,000 in there somewhere.

  24. Not getting deeper into debt is better than having it shoot right back up to where it was. I am working on losing weight right now and the best feeling might be when the scale keeps going down but there is nothing worse than having it go back up. I am not thrilled when the scale refuses to move or at least seems that way. But not going backwards is some progress in itself.

    I disagree with your husband -- from a previous post -- debt is NOT a way of life. It is a temporary situation. Maybe you're not making much progress at this moment towards getting out of it but you will make progress on it if you keep working at it. With all those expenses piling up, it might be time to work on that side hustle. LOL

  25. Wow. Just wow. I read all of the comments and I find it interesting that people are getting so worked up over birthday parties for kids. I don't think it is unrealistic to spend that much on two parties --- especially if you haven't done any sort of party in five years!!!!! I imagine that if someone read my posts about the massive amount of $$$ I threw down this past weekend for Princess's birthday trip and concert they'd be in shock. But I did what I thought was best, which was making my daughter's dream trip come true. And we had a ball doing it. And it is something she will remember for the rest of her life! She'll be heading off to college next year, and after that, it will probably be a while before going to a concert with her Mom is something she'll even want to do!

    So, don't worry too much about the naysayers -- everyone's goals and values aren't the same. Sometimes what you really get out of spending some money is worth far more than the actual output. Continue on your course! You aren't adding to your debt, you are still paying it down and making progress! Good luck!!!!!

  26. I'm with Sass - I am all for doing what you want to do as far as your kids are concerned... I throw down probably $200 each year for the past 7 for dd - and I don't feel bad about it. will it take a little longer to get out of debt, sure, but in the grand scheme of life, is an extra 3 months in payments going to really matter once you are closer to debt free??? nope in my book!