My Financial Life

My financial life right now is boooring.

And that’s a good thing.

When I started this site I was $90,000 in debt, and considering bankruptcy.  I’d just started on the Dave Ramsey plan and was looking for every possible way to scrape up any extra money  I could.

Now, the debt is nearly gone.

US interest payments on debt by sector as a fr...

US interest payments on debt by sector as a fraction of GDP 1960-2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • I’m looking at the last $8000 on my mortgage.  I have enough in savings to pay it off today, without draining my savings completely dry.
  • My IRA gets maxed out every year, and this year, my wife’s will be, too.
  • We save or invest about 30% of our income.
  • My credit score according to CreditKarma.com is 826.

Our credit card is almost paid off every month.  There’s occasionally some overlap between our auto-payment and our charges.  And sometimes the budgeted auto-payment doesn’t match the reality of our spending and I don’t notice for a week or two.  Except for the end of last year, but that’s a post for another day.

The short version is: We’re doing well, and we’re nearing the end of our financial problems.

Our scheduled mortgage over-payments will have it completely paid off in October.  Then we are debt-free and can hopefully manage to live the rest of our lives without paying interest on money that isn’t earning us more than we are paying.   For example, I’m willing to take out a mortgage to buy another rental property, but I’m going to wait to do that until our current mortgage is paid and we have a substantial down payment ready.

No debt.

I’m not kidding when I say it’s been a long 6 years of fighting our debt.  Counting a car loan we got and paid early, we’ve paid more than $110,000 of debt in six years.

I’ve run side businesses, aggressively negotiated raises, and left companies(voluntarily and otherwise) for better pay & benefits.

I’ve watched friends and family take vacations around the world.

I’ve turned my kids down for so many things that I would love to buy them, but couldn’t because being financially secure is a much higher priority than spoiling children.  Try explaining that to a 6 year old.

And now, the debt-ridden part of our financial journey is almost over.   Finally.

So what’s next?

I have no idea.  I’d like to travel more.  Linda and the girls want us to move to a hobby farm and get horses.  We want more rental properties.

Whatever “next” is, it will be done from a position of strength that won’t destroy our financial world or put out futures at risk.

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Extra Money? What Do I Do With Extra Money?

A couple of months ago, I started a new job. The new job has bonus potential every month, and

English: RepRap v.2 'Mendel' open-source FDM 3...

English: RepRap v.2 ‘Mendel’ open-source FDM 3D printer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

getting that bonus is largely under my control. Effectively, if I’m not a total slacker, I’ll get
about $500 every month, but it’s not guaranteed.

We’re also getting a small 4 figure tax refund this year. I wasn’t expecting that at the beginning
of last year, but one of my side hustles has taken a turn down a path I didn’t plan for, which
lowered my tax liability considerably.

Both of these things are money that we can’t plan for, so it’s not in the budget. It is extra
money.

What the heck do you do(responsibly) with extra money? It’s easy to take the money and run to the
spend it someplace fun.

Easy.

And tempting.

Very tempting.

But that wouldn’t be responsible at all.

The Dave Ramsey plan says we should put it on our debt, but our debt is down to just a mortgage,
and that’s down to $9000.

Retirement?

I actually over-contributed to my retirement last year, and had to file a form to get the
overpayment back instead of paying a penalty on that money. My wife’s account isn’t getting maxed,
yet, but she’s also way ahead of me in retirement savings.

So what to do with it?

I added a calculator that let’s me punch in a number and it breaks it out by our optional goals.

It has 6 categories:

  • Extra mortgage payment: 25%. My goal is to pay off the mortgage completely this year.
  • Retirement contribution: 25%. I do want to max Linda’s retirement contributions this year.
  • Emergency fund: 15%. We have an emergency fund, but I want to grow it to 6 months of our expenses.
  • Family: 15%. This if for whatever family thing we’re planning to do. It could be pushed into a down payment for another rental property, or a vacation, or a camper. We’ll decide this each time we get the extra money.
  • Jason’s Fun Money: 10%. This is for me to blow on something fun, like a 3D printer.
  • Linda’s Fun Money: 10%. This if for my wife to blow on something fun, like a present for me.

So, if we get $2500 randomly dropped in our mailbox, we’ll put $625 on the mortgage and a
retirement fund, $375 to the emergency fund and the family fund, and $250 to Linda and I for fun
stuff.

That lets us see progress on a few of our goals, while still rewarding how hard we’ve worked and
how much we’ve done without while becoming financially stable. 65% of it is pure grown-up &
responsible spending. 35% is generally fun, but can be repurposed if necessary.

What do you do with surprise money? Do you blow it or do something responsible with it?

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The Value of Hiding Money From Your Spouse

I have a confession, but it’s probably not going to be a big shocker if you read the title of this post.

Acceptance marks displayed on top left of this...

Acceptance marks displayed on top left of this sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hide money from my wife.

Some of you just started screaming at your monitor that I’m a horrible person.

That’s cool.

You’re wrong, but the fact that I got that reaction out of you makes me smile.

Ok, I might be a little bit horrible, but not because I hide money.

My wife has an admitted shopping problem.  If she thinks we’re broke, she shops less.  That’s a win and allows me to save up for our long-term goals and provide for our financial security.

I don’t lie about it.  If she asks how we’re doing, I tell her.  At least in general terms.

But I didn’t tell her about my annual bonus, until we had a bunch of car repairs come up that would have swamped our emergency fund.

I also haven’t told her about the cash I’ve been stockpiling.

A couple of years ago, the power went out here for four days.  It wasn’t just our house, it was 75% of everything within 5 miles of our house.

When the power came on in some places after a day or two, the phone lines were still down, which meant gas stations couldn’t process credit cards.

Quick, look in your wallet and tell me how much cash you have on you….

Most people live on their credit or debit cards.

Could you buy food or water if your plastic was gone?

I could that week, but not for long, so I started taking the cash payments from my side hustle and putting it aside.  I’d come home, give my wife a little cash, keep a little cash for myself, and put at least 80% of it away.  I absolutely refuse to touch that money for anything.

Part of the “set it aside and forget about” means not revealing its existence.  It would be too easy to dip into it to pay the pizza guy or when we go to Rennfest.

So I don’t talk about, and it gets to sit all by itself in the safe, comfy and warm.  It’s my security blanket, and nobody gets to touch my binky.

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My New Windfall

Tax season is over.

money

money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

This year, TurboTax and Amazon teamed up to offer me a 10% on up to $1200 of my refund if I took it as an Amazon gift card.

$120 free if I spend that money with a company I’m going to spend money with anyway?

Yes, please.

I spend lots of money with Amazon.  I subscribe to many of my household items there, because I use them and I don’t want to have to think about buying them.  I get my soap, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, and garbage bags automatically delivered.  There’s a bunch of other stuff, too, but that’s what I remember off the top of my head.  If I have 5 items in a monthly delivery, I get 20% off.

Free money, free shipping, and none of the hassles of shopping?

Yes, please.

So now I have a $1320 credit with the company I use for most of my non-grocery shopping.

I also have 962 items on my wishlist with Amazon.

To recap: $1320 burning a hole in my metaphorical pocket and 962 items that I have wanted at some time in the past, begging me to bring them home.

That’s a dilemma.

The smart answer is, of course, to let that money hide in Amazon’s system and slowly drain out to pay for the things I actually need.

The fun answer is to stock up on games and books and toys and gadgets and cameras and, and, and….

Some days, it’s hard being a responsible adult.

I think I’m going to compromise with myself.  I’ll leave the vast majority of the money where it is, but I’ll spend a little bit of it on fun stuff, and a little bit more on stuff I don’t quite need, but would be useful, but not so useful that I’ve already bought it.

A new alarm clock to replace the one next to my bed that automatically adjusts for daylight savings time but was purchased before they changed the day daylight savings time hit so I have to adjust the time 4 times per year instead of never.  That’s on the list of not-quite-needs.

The volume 2 book of paracord knots is on the list of wants that can’t possibly be considered a need, but it’s going to come home, anyway.

I figure, if I spend a couple of hundred dollars on things I really, really want, I’ll scratch that itch and leave most of the money alone.

What would you do with a $1300 gift card at a store you shop at every week that sells every conceivable thing?  Spend it right away, or stretch it out, or something else?

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