Author Topic: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here. --Added Case Study!  (Read 8448 times)

Stellar

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Hello all,

I am very excited to be a part of this forum.  I love the blog and part of me feels like I was made for this lifestyle of frugality.  I'm very very very bad at anything money related.  In fact, I don't understand anything about 401ks or index stocks.  I will head to the library after work to get some of the 'for dummies' like books on stock index stuff.  Granted, before I even get to that part, i need to start some sort of nest egg and then figure out how to make it work for me.

I started to read the blog after I found it linked from a story about two Canadians who purchased nothing for a year.  I was intrigued.  I recently really began to dig into my own finances.  I really do not have fancy stuff (shoes, clothes, etc) and I consider myself a great bargain shopper.  I make a decent living and have zero to show for it - literally.

The saddest part of all this is that I am almost 40. I've seen case studies and many of them are directed towards youngsters.  I've made lots of financial errors in my life - young folks may have more do overs?

I found the buy nothing for a year thing about four weeks ago and I've made some changes already.  I've put Mint on my phone which makes my accounts much more visible.  I usually live check to check but I have manager to gather over $1000.  I've some CC debt and a car payment, and mortgage. 

I'll stop now as I do not want to seem like a rambling nutbag. 

Thanks for reading.

St-

***************************************************************************************************

Thank you so much everyone.  I actually started an anonymous blog that I hope will keep me in check.  I've never had a journal - even as a teenage girl it was not of interest to me.  Plus, I am very bad at routines.  That is why I feel very frustrated about this.  I want this to be something that sticks.  Somehow, I think this will be easier than remembering to moisturize.

I do have a spouse but he joined a startup and with his insurance costs, saving for him may be a bit difficult.  He does contribute about $600 a month to the house hold.  I asked him to refrain but he is worse than I am at financing his expenses so he said the money was better off with me. 

My take home pay a year:
52344
yearly money from spouse:
7200


Monthly Bills:
Mortgage: 823 (We owe 73K and I'm not sure what it is worth.  Maybe 110? Maybe 120?)
Car payment: 276 (2009 Escape and I owe 8000)
Cell service: 55
Cable + internet: 95 (I work from home 40% of the time, so I have the speedier internet which is 60 or so a month.  The cable included for the extra 15 is basic)
Netflix & Amazon Prime: 18
Power: ~180
Water: 45
Trash: 24
Gas: 25
CC: 250 (I have 3500 on a zero interest until 08/2015 card)

I give a lump payment of $4500 to my daughter's private school.  She will be old enough for kindergarten next year but the school down the street has lackluster reviews from the local parents.  This option was less expensive than day car.  Prior to that, she stayed with my father but as he ages, he’s not as involved and she was mostly left to her favorite baby sitter: Curious George.

My husband and I both work quite far from our home.  Houston is huge.  It’s also becoming popular and home prices are on the rise so we’re not sure where to move or how.  He works 26 miles to the west and I work 29 miles to the south (downtown Houston area).  My daughter’s school is near my job. Ideally we would like to be closer to the middle of the city but these days the home prices can go up to 450k+.

In the past, you could find a 35k to 45k fixer upper pour 20k into it and have  a nice modest home.  That’s  just not the case anymore. 

Last week I spent around 45 in gas and 35 in tolls.  My total for the week was $285 including groceries, a couple of movie rentals, $50 in eating out.

I’m hemorrhaging money like crazy.  We change our own oil, we paint our own walls… I need to find where to plug.  The CC debt has come down drastically in the past 2 years.  I’ve had a few surgeries and then the surprise baby (miracle kid really) and those were surprise expenses – as well as draining!

I  hope this is in a good format to read and interpret.


Thank you and regards,
St-
« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 11:54:04 AM by Stellar »

Rickk

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2014, 08:54:21 AM »
Welcome to the forum.

Your first and most important task is to figure out where your money goes, and stop the leaks.  Learning about investing won't help until you get a handle on spending.
I think the most important financial thing you can look into is if you have a 401K option at work with a company match - this would be free money that you are giving up - look into that RIGHT NOW!

You are not too late for another redo.  Wan't it MMM that said if you save 1/2 your paycheck for 10 years you would become FI?

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2014, 09:03:57 AM »
Welcome to the forum.

Your first and most important task is to figure out where your money goes, and stop the leaks.  Learning about investing won't help until you get a handle on spending.
I think the most important financial thing you can look into is if you have a 401K option at work with a company match - this would be free money that you are giving up - look into that RIGHT NOW!

You are not too late for another redo.  Wan't it MMM that said if you save 1/2 your paycheck for 10 years you would become FI?

+1.
Save everything you can.
Look into a 401K and IRA's.
Learn about investing, plenty of resources on the web, but it can be very simple. Buy a low fee stock index, and a low fee bond index.
It's never too late. Welcome to the forum.

nereo

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2014, 09:08:20 AM »
Welcome Stellar!

To start with a cliché, "it's never too late".  Don't worry about your age or things you could have done differently in your youth.  You still have decades ahead of you and with some MMM-style badassity you can find yourself financially independent ("FI") long before the majority of people who can't retire until they are in their mid 60s.

As Rickk said, the first step is to chart out where all your money is going. Then you can do a careful analaysis of what purchases bring you happiness and which ones have just become near-automatic money drains. 

Once you are ready to start building your 'stache, I would highyl recommend reading the JL Collins series here: http://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/
each post is a quick read but there's a ton of good information there.

stay active on the forum, and once you are ready post a Case Study with specific questions so that we can help you along.  Just be ready for some well-meaning (but sometimes harsh) criticism.

Cheers
N

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2014, 09:25:37 AM »
http://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/
+1 to this series. Save the trip to the library and read this instead.


Lis

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2014, 09:34:43 AM »
Hey Stellar, welcome!

The hardest part is admitting you're not financially where you should be and accepting the fact that you need to make changes. You've done that!

I think it would be beneficial for the posters here to see what exactly you're working with. What's your income (net/gross)? What are your debts (amounts and interest rates)? What are your assets and savings?

It's also important to not take on more than you can chew. You're going to get a lot of awesome advice, and you're going to want to utilize a lot of it. Take giant leaps when you can, baby steps when you have to. Your hair is on fire, and you need to put it out!

One last thing - once you figure out a plan, you might want to keep a journal in the Journal section. It'll keep you motivated and on track, and you'll get encouragement and advice when you need it.

Good luck!

EvenKeeled

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2014, 09:35:17 AM »
I'm new to the blog and forum too. I'm naturally frugal, at least about buying "things", but over the years have at times spent a lot on therapy (to get over hangups, not desperately messed up) and such.

I also didn't focus on higher paying job options and took some non-career-path side trips. Looking back, if I'd known what I know now I probably would have done some things differently.

But here we are. The best thing is to forgive ourselves for the past, be thrilled we found this site and new way of thinking, and plan for a fantastic future!

I'm 55 and won't be able to retire till I'm about 60. So you will be way ahead of me!

jka468

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2014, 09:51:58 AM »
A few quick things that may help you right away. When I was a lurker here these were some items that made a big difference quickly...

-Car insurance: I called up my company and started talking. I shaved $60/month off for the exact same plan! Try this, especially if you have a solid driving record.

-Cable/Internet: I like my cable and need ESPN, but for an amazing package I negotiated everything I could possibly want for $90/month, including taxes. They tried to give me this same plan for $120/month.

-Gym membership: Nothing huge, but I talked to my gym and got $5/month off the bill. I love my gym and their many locations, so I wasn't changing anyways, and this was a bonus.

-Cell Phone: I called up and ended up saving $25/month through threatening to leave. I have T-mobile, which has really lowered rates and catered to customers lately, so YMMV with other companies, but worth a shot.

Things like this, along with frugality and investing, can end up saving you a lot of money over time without even thinking about it. Good luck.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 09:54:16 AM by jka468 »

ZiziPB

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Re: Enlightened and freaked out at the same time. Newbie here.
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2014, 10:24:09 AM »

I started to read the blog after I found it linked from a story about two Canadians who purchased nothing for a year.  I was intrigued.  I recently really began to dig into my own finances. 

Welcome to the forums.  From the reference above it looks like you may be Canadian?  If you live in Canada, keep in mind that the frugal living advice will be applicable to you but as far as investments are concerned you need to educate yourself in the Canadian system.  You mentioned 401k, but that is a US specific retirement saving and investment vehicle.  There are a lot of Canadians and Canada specific info on this forum but you need to search for it.

Stellar

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I'm not in Canada but I saw their story on forbes.com and that also led me to MMM.  :-)  Based on your kick butt replies, I've added more information for a case study!

surfhb

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Just a quick scan of things: 

Your monthly take home pay is $5000, yet your listed expenses are around $2500.   

Where's the other $2500 going?  :).   

I'd so more research on your local school.  Go meet the principle, sit in on classes, don't believe reviews off the net.    You live in a moderately low cost living area and you have good pay.   

Actually you're in a pretty good spot regarding your debt and income.....now it's time to get real and see where the money goes.    Once you understand that and what's important and what's not, there's no reason why you can't be putting $25k a year away.....and this is just on your salary.    Once your SO gets going you will be Golden!   
« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 12:20:27 PM by surfhb »

Cheddar Stacker

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Houston, Canada, same thing right.

Ok, so I looked at all the data above and a few big, big things stand out.

1) You guys live too far away from work. This should be priority #1. You are spending $80/week in commuting costs, and your husband is likely doing the same. Since you're the breadwinner and your daughter's school is near your work, I would look very seriously into moving within walking distance to your work. If houses are too expensive, rent a 2 bedroom apartment for a few years and save everything you can.

2) If husband is at a tech startup see if he can remote in and work from home a few days/week to save on commute as well.

3) Once kindergarten arrives stay away from private school.

4) Cell phone could be reduced. Look around the blog and the forum for methods.

5) If you live within walking distance to work would you still need your car, because dropping that $276 payment would be a huge win.

6) You started at "take home pay" but you are likely missing out on savings opportunities by not examining taxes and other deductions like health insurance. If your work offers a 401K contribute at least enough to get 100% of their match. Once you dial everything else in, max out your 401k as this will accelerate savings quite a bit.

If my math and assumptions are right you listed $59,544 income and $43,512 expenses which leave $16K still to be accounted for. That's a huge amount of money. Find it, and save it. That's a maxed out 401k that's not accounted for yet.

Cheddar Stacker

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Here are the numbers I got BTW:

 Annual     Monthly    Weekly
 (7,200)    (600)   
 (52,344)    (4,362)   
 9,876     823    
 3,312     276    
 660     55    
 1,140     95    
 216     18    
 2,160     180    
 540     45    
 288     24    
 300     25    
 3,000     250    
 4,500     375    
 3,840     320     80
 13,680     1,140     285
 (16,032)    (1,336)    365

surfhb

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I think the commuting costs are offset by the low mortgage.    Yeah.. I get the idea of moving closer but I think that's a big step to think about right now.     She'll pay more as she moves closer to the city

Concentrate on your debt and spending right now

Quark

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Hey I live in Houston. But I am young and single.

See if you can't live somewhere withing walking/biking/busing/light rail distance of work, some townhomes are not too expensive. Check HAR.com for foreclosures for fixer uppers under 200K.

I used to work downtown. First I rode the commuter bus from Katy. Then I lived in Montrose and took the light rail. Then I lived in Eado and took the bus or biked. Then I moved to the Heights and biked. I rent apartments.

Now I work by the airport but I got a prius so it only costs me 15-20/ week in gas.

If none of these options are viable, I recommend at least living somewhere you don't have to pay tolls and get a Prius or something.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 12:27:21 PM by Quark »

Bob W

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Thanks for joining us.

You didn't tell us where you are hemorrhaging money.   So I'll help --

Food budget,  vacations,  entertainment.

So here are some immediate steps you can make -

Refinance the home -- Get a 30 year 4% mortgage and your monthly payment will be around 450 including taxes, and insurance.  If the reason your payment is so high is due to bad credit score --- you really need to address that with a vengeance.

Cut the cable -- nuff said

Cut your food bill to $80 max -- no cheating.

You should have a minimum of $2,000 per month left over.  With that pay the credit card bill first.  (yeah, we know it is 0 interest).  This is for psychological momentum.   It will take 5 weeks to take that off your plate.

You will now have a minimum of $2,250 a month left over.  With that hit the car payment heavy.  It will take less than 3 months to kill dead, dead, dead!

Bam,  A minimum of $2,500 per month left over.   Not bad for 4 months work. 

After that you can get really serious with a minimum goal of 50% investing per month.   

Of course, as always,  I could be totally wrong.

bacchi

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You probably don't need super-high-bandwidth internet even if you work at home. Unless you're downloading massive files all the time, you can get by on 15. That speed will support movie streaming and video calls just fine.

Stellar

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Thanks so much for responding.  I agree a bit with surfhb on the moving... I look at 250k+ prices and I get a bit terrified.  I am constantly on craigslist and har.com searching for a fixer upper.   They are not that easy to come by anymore.   

My mortgage has 18 years to go @ 4.25% interest right now.  Insurance prices have risen quite a bit in TX and I shop around every year.  I believe this one is 1650 a year.  Plus the $35 monthly PMI.

I've actually had a chat with the principle at the elementary.  When I asked him what he would do if the current project based learning methodology did not work for the school he said they would stick it out until it did - but no response when I asked what if it didn't... We are in the Spring ISD area.  I think for my daughter's age, PBL may not be a huge deal or impact her greatly at this stage... During the summer, when she is off school I mainly work from home. 

GardenFun

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Welcome to the forum!

Books:  Good started is Eric Tyson's Personal Finances for Dummies.  Covers a multitude of topics, including investing.

Do you have a breakdown of your restaurant/grocery spending?  It's a common area for extra spending to hide.

If you can work from home when your daughter is off in the summer, what's stopping this from happening more often during the school year?  It would address one of the three big hitters in a budget:  Transportation (with Housing and Grocery being the other two).


Bob W

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I'm not understanding your mortgage.   I just ran the numbers including taxes, PMI and your 1,600 insurance.   My figure comes out to 630 per month on 75K.   Your paying almost $200 per month more?  Why is that?  That is a huge difference.  I don't understand?

You should also not be paying any PMI with the equity you have.  Call your mortgage company today and have that removed. 

There is something not right with your mortgage? 

You will need to go through the effort to write down every single thing and every single time you spend money on everyday for a month.    My guess is that money is like water through your fingers. 




ZiziPB

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I'm not understanding your mortgage.   I just ran the numbers including taxes, PMI and your 1,600 insurance.   My figure comes out to 630 per month on 75K.   Your paying almost $200 per month more?  Why is that?  That is a huge difference.  I don't understand?


Escrow for real estate taxes?  I don't think the OP listed RE tax as a separate expense, so most likely her bank is collecting and paying the RE tax.  $200 per month sounds like a likely amount for that.

I agree with you re PMI.  It's crazy that the OP should be paying PMI after making payments for 12 years on her loan.

Stellar

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Thank you, Bob.  ZiziPB is correct.  The rest is escrow.  I actually refinanced to a 20 year for a lower interest at around the time I had 21 years left on the loan.  The loan started as FHA so the refinance did not cost anything out of pocket and it did not roll any closing costs into the loan.  After this, I did ask about PMI but they told I had to wait 5 years.

Using Mint, I see that I've spent $283 this October on groceries.  I reviewed the blog in which Mr. Money Mustache lays out his groceries from Costco.  I would like to attempt that.  Granted, there isn't a Costco near me, but I can try it with Sam's.  I dislike grocery shopping very much so only going a few times a year would be kind of nice.  I am going to poke around the forum and see what other grocery lists I may find.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2014, 07:26:55 AM by Stellar »

lifejoy

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Thanks for joining us.

Cut your food bill to $80 max -- no cheating.


...Is this the eating out budget, or the grocery budget? I'm confused and probably missed something obvious.

Chrissy

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You managed to save $1,000 in a month, and you just started getting serious!  That's awesome!  You know what that tells you?  That you can totally do this!  Sure, some changes are hard, but some changes are really, really easy.  I'm not always so hot with routines myself, but the good news is, a lot about finances can be automated.  For instance, having money taken out of your paycheck for your 401k, setting up automatic payments of bills, etc.  And, some of the "fixes" you need to institute are one-time things, like calling to get your cable/phone/internet/insurance lowered. 

Looking at your list, the power bill looks really high to me.  $180/mo for a three-person household, even though the house is empty all day?  Maybe this is because of the Houston climate?  Mine is $35/mo, but I'm waaaay North of you.  Do you close the blinds/curtains when you leave in the morning, have the thermostat on a timer, use energy-efficient bulbs, have appliances on power-strips that you turn off after use, etc.?

1967mama

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Welcome to the forums! Hope you find them as helpful as I do!

One thing that jumps out at me in your budget is your television viewing. You've got the $15 for basic cable, $18 on Netflix and Amazon Prime ...
AND THEN you rented a couple of movies??????

My goodness, how do you find the time to watch all of that tv? Is it worth over $400 a year to you (when you add in the cost of rented movies)?

Why not put up a $20 digital OTA (Over The Air receiver -- like the old rabbit ears, but digital)? They are practically plug and play, and available at any electronics store, probably even Walmart. I'm sure you'd get plenty of free HD channels in Houston.

Additionally, most folks can borrow movies free (or super cheap) from their local library.


Stellar

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Thank you Chrissy and 1967mama!  Actually, we started a no TV during the week rule.  That doesn't mean we don't cheat once in a while.  I am attempting to train for a half marathon and that takes time plus with the nicer weather now we will be in our yard more often.

The movies were probably during the weekend.  We love movies and music (saw The Eagles this week... last splurge of the year even though I am dying to see Fleetwood Mac in December).  I actually designed a movie room "on a budget" three years ago and we use it often. 

I am lowering my actual cable bill to around $60 just for internet alone.  We did not have the TV portion for a while until Walking Dead - but you can watch it free online.  We love football but our cable is basic and we usually watch it outside with an HD Antenna anyway...

I am sort of stuck with the cell phone plan. 

The power bill kills me!  Our house does not even have windows where the sun rises and sets.  I called them and they are sending someone to check the smart meter.  I've also started to use a fan more on the second level (split level house, heat rises, kitchen is on second floor).  Our windows are probably over 40 years old... but they all have thick energy efficient curtains.  Plus, we are surrounded by trees and the AC system was replaced less than 4 years ago.

I'm not sure what he $80 food budget was either.  Is that every two weeks? 

frompa

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I wouldn't give up on that PMI question so easily.  PMI is additional insurance to cover your lender when someone has less than 20% equity in the property being purchased.  Look to the appraisal done on your property at the time of the refi -- did you have more than 20% in equity?  If the appraisal seems artificially low, it may make sense for you to get a solid more real appraisal, and if it shows you have more than 20% equity already, show it to your mortgage co and ask to have the PMI removed.  "Five years" is an extremely BS and arbitrary "rule," and sounds like nothing more than a rule of thumb intended to forever favor the sellers of the PMI.  And I second the others who say, you have lots of things going for you, and with some good attention, you will likely be pretty badass pretty quickly.  Off the credit card debt, off the car payments, pay attention to the rest.  Good luck!

GardenFun

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The power bill kills me!  Our house does not even have windows where the sun rises and sets.  I called them and they are sending someone to check the smart meter.  I've also started to use a fan more on the second level (split level house, heat rises, kitchen is on second floor).  Our windows are probably over 40 years old... but they all have thick energy efficient curtains.  Plus, we are surrounded by trees and the AC system was replaced less than 4 years ago.

I'm not sure what he $80 food budget was either.  Is that every two weeks?

I took the $80 to be a weekly grocery budget for 3 people.  That's a tight budget, but look at options outside the normal grocery stores.  I went to Aldi's for the first time in years and was surprised by the low prices but decent food quality.  Bought some kettle chips for my husband, didn't tell them where they were from, and he thought they were extremely good.

Neighbors have a tri-level and they are having issues with their electric bill too.  One option is to see if your power company can do an energy audit.  Some have online options where they compare the size of your house, types of appliances, etc. and give you a breakdown of usage and suggestions for improvement.   

And push the bank on the PMI.  That is BS money they are making you pay. 

Stellar

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Tracking your spending is nerve wrecking.  I had to fill up yesterday, buy oil+filter for an oil change... cha-ching!

I was told because the loan was FHA when I purchased the home, the lowering of the rate with a 20 year was at no cost to me because it was also an FHA loan and the five year thing is their regulation.

They said I can move to a conventional loan.  I asked about a 15 yr and a 10 yr.  I don't seem to save very much in interest + PMI removal to roll in any bank fees/closing costs.  If I just put myself in a position to send 250-300 extra, that seems to make more sense....?  It may still be more in interest (1k or so more?) but the closing costs are like 3500 to 5500.

GardenFun

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Are there any good credit unions by you?  They seem to have more competitive closing costs and better rates, especially if you bring your direct deposits their way. 

Stellar

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I can certainly give them a call to check.  If the FHA guideline is 5 years, I have 1260 or so to go in PMI until my "time is up".  Paying more than that in closing costs did not seem to make sense when I talked to Wells Fargo about a refinance.

GardenFun

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I can certainly give them a call to check.  If the FHA guideline is 5 years, I have 1260 or so to go in PMI until my "time is up".  Paying more than that in closing costs did not seem to make sense when I talked to Wells Fargo about a refinance.

Ah, I get it now.  That may be a hard number to beat. 

Stellar

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The best I could do is $11 off the cable.  The price does not change much if I drop the actual cable TV part and keep only the performance internet.  I think we now have Charter in the area but the reviews are scary and I need a stable connection for work.

Stellar

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Thanks for joining us.

You didn't tell us where you are hemorrhaging money.   So I'll help --

Food budget,  vacations,  entertainment.

So here are some immediate steps you can make -

Refinance the home -- Get a 30 year 4% mortgage and your monthly payment will be around 450 including taxes, and insurance.  If the reason your payment is so high is due to bad credit score --- you really need to address that with a vengeance.

Cut the cable -- nuff said

Cut your food bill to $80 max -- no cheating.

You should have a minimum of $2,000 per month left over.  With that pay the credit card bill first.  (yeah, we know it is 0 interest).  This is for psychological momentum.   It will take 5 weeks to take that off your plate.

You will now have a minimum of $2,250 a month left over.  With that hit the car payment heavy.  It will take less than 3 months to kill dead, dead, dead!

Bam,  A minimum of $2,500 per month left over.   Not bad for 4 months work. 

After that you can get really serious with a minimum goal of 50% investing per month.   

Of course, as always,  I could be totally wrong.

Cutting the food bill has been so easy!!!  Looking back on Mint, I've spent almost 600 a month in food in the past.  I haven't even stepped into a grocery store this week.  I've spent $65 this month overall.  Mint isn't the most awesome app, but I adjust the budget settings and I find myself sticking to them. 

At the moment, I am down to the $2400 no interest credit card and the $8500 car note that does have interest.  I can pay off the $2400 on Friday but wouldn't attacking the car balance be more beneficial and save interest?

GardenFun

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You should have a minimum of $2,000 per month left over.  With that pay the credit card bill first.  (yeah, we know it is 0 interest).  This is for psychological momentum.   It will take 5 weeks to take that off your plate.

You will now have a minimum of $2,250 a month left over.  With that hit the car payment heavy.  It will take less than 3 months to kill dead, dead, dead!

Bam,  A minimum of $2,500 per month left over.   Not bad for 4 months work. 

Cutting the food bill has been so easy!!!  Looking back on Mint, I've spent almost 600 a month in food in the past.  I haven't even stepped into a grocery store this week.  I've spent $65 this month overall.  Mint isn't the most awesome app, but I adjust the budget settings and I find myself sticking to them. 

At the moment, I am down to the $2400 no interest credit card and the $8500 car note that does have interest.  I can pay off the $2400 on Friday but wouldn't attacking the car balance be more beneficial and save interest?

Great job on the food bill! 

There are two camps when it comes to paying off debt: 
- Camp 1 says to pay off the smaller bill first as a motivational accelerator towards tackling the other debts.  Kind of a "wow, I really did it and it feels awesome.  Let's kick the butt of the other debt now."
- Camp 2 says to look at the interest rates and tackle the one with the highest rate to reduce the overall debt payment amount.

Either approach works.  If you feel you have the ability to stick through the entire process month after month, go after the highest rate.  If you feel yourself faltering, go after the smallest debt. 

Stellar

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Thank you, GardenFun!  I've been having way too much fun reading about all of this stuff.  I think I'm driving my spouse nuts - luckily he said he'd follow my lead just let him know what to do. 

In my head, they are kind of a bulk sum.  I guess actually owning the vehicle outright may give me a great sense of achievement.  I think the interest rate on the car is 2.7%.