Author Topic: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice  (Read 19626 times)

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #50 on: October 30, 2014, 12:56:40 AM »
Are you mechanically inclined at all? If so, stop being so nervous about older cars. I drive an 01 Hyundai elantra with ~90k on it. It cost about $4k. DH drives a 92 or 93 corolla with 240k on it. It cost $1k. They both run fine. Mine is better looking than his. They both get us reliably from point a to b.

stash4cash

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #51 on: October 30, 2014, 06:44:07 AM »
Hi Kyran,
I rarely comment on these threads because there are plenty of people willing to give advice and face punches. :)
I'm commenting now because you are essentially where we were at a few years ago - with similar income and family situations.
We are now at 700K net worth and climbing rapidly (and we are doing this while still living a not very mustachian lifestyle compared to many on this forum).

The small changes you are making add up, you just need to keep at it and you need to make sure that every dime cut from expenses gets saved (not spent elsewhere).

My wife is not totally on board - but she is on board with saving more for retirement (and/or helping with kids college expenses). I use these things that are valuable to her to help motivate.

1) I have a pool, trust me, you can take care of it. Its a bit of a pain at times but not worth the money you are paying.

2) I dropped cable. Trust me you can do this too. Get Netflix and drop cable. I convinced my wife that she could buy whatever shows she was missing off of Amazon or iTunes. She did that for a bit and now doesn't bother.  :) You find that you watch less TV but there are plenty of whole seasons of shows on Netflix (or Amazon prime) that you can discover and watch. Honestly, the hardest thing about it is the NFL season as we miss out on Monday night football and Thursday night football. But as I tell her, I'm not paying $1000 a year for that and she agrees.

3) Drop your home phone and go internet only.

4) Kids Gymnastics - we quit it and do soccer and basketball now. Cheaper, way cheaper.

5) Car Insurance - once you have cheaper paid off cars, you can go to comprehensive only and drop collision.

6) Lose the Dry Cleaning bill - cheaper, no wrinkle clothes, dry em at home :)

7) Electricity - those darn pool pumps, I hate em. :) You can drop this bill for sure - things I've done are LED lights, lower hot water heater temperature, heater at 66 in winter, A/C at 78 in summer. Note that I haven't even broached the line drying talk with my wife, she's not ready for it - haha.

8) Grocery shopping - this one is the hardest for us. We've made some progress by going to cheaper stores (in our area, Sharp Shopper) and being careful at Costco.


These are all what I would call easy changes in the sense that you can make them and never really even notice the difference in your life. The only change I've made that anyone in my family has really noticed is that TV one and that is strictly because of our NFL addiction.

potm

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #52 on: October 30, 2014, 07:14:00 AM »
What strikes out to me about this case study is that the op has recognised he has a spending problem but it sounds like it was only a result of wanting to move to a lower paid less stressful job. If expenses are cut down a bit only to allow for a lower salary you are back to square one with no room to spare.

If you want to be able to cut back on your work then you must first generate some surplus income to pay off your debts and acquire some investments to allow you to do so. Otherwise you will have to keep working forever to maintain your lifestyle.
Sorry to be harsh.

I really hope you report back with some better progress.

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #53 on: October 30, 2014, 07:27:20 AM »
What strikes out to me about this case study is that the op has recognised he has a spending problem but it sounds like it was only a result of wanting to move to a lower paid less stressful job. If expenses are cut down a bit only to allow for a lower salary you are back to square one with no room to spare.

If you want to be able to cut back on your work then you must first generate some surplus income to pay off your debts and acquire some investments to allow you to do so. Otherwise you will have to keep working forever to maintain your lifestyle.
Sorry to be harsh.

I really hope you report back with some better progress.

I agree that was the motivation at the time.  It's not anymore, at least not for the next few years until we get things fixed.

Stash4Cash - Thanks for the input.  A lot of the folks here are right, I haven't been as disciplined as I should have over the last 60 days.  Not going to make excuses, but I've been doing some volunteer work on the side for 10 hours a week (wordpress website design is a hobby) or so that probably would have been more than enough to learn pool care.  I do agree with the Drycleaning - some of my shirts that I've had for 2-3 years still look new as a result of it (I'm actually somewhat frugal with clothing for myself) but maybe it's time to go buy a couple of non-wrinkle shirts so I can drop the Dry Cleaning bill.  I only kept it around by justifying it as a 2106 expense for work, which I think is pretty close to a dollar for dollar tax deduction up to a certain %.  Maybe you are right with the TV piece - I'll have to check out Amazon Prime and Netflix to see what's there.  We do have about 6 shows we watch over the course of a year, but it's probably cheaper to piece them out.

MDM - Thank you for the detailed post with the budget breakdown.  I've never gone out and "set" a firm budget like you have listed which is probably why we are where we are.  I think that's a great template to use and I'll be putting it to work this week before we meet with our Pastor at church.

Dina - Thank you for the feedback as well.  I agree it's out of control which is why I'm back here.  The problem is accountability.  Nobody I know lives a frugal lifestyle and the only one holding me accountable for the actions is me.   My wife would be OK not ever knowing what goes on with the finances so she can focus  her time on the kids.

Overall I'm hoping to report some aggressive changes in the next 30 days.  Once we are there, we can just keep thinning out the expenses as much as possible.  Now if I could only get my wife to agree to let us sell the house....   :)

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #54 on: October 30, 2014, 07:28:35 AM »
Are you mechanically inclined at all? If so, stop being so nervous about older cars. I drive an 01 Hyundai elantra with ~90k on it. It cost about $4k. DH drives a 92 or 93 corolla with 240k on it. It cost $1k. They both run fine. Mine is better looking than his. They both get us reliably from point a to b.

Not unless it's a 1965 to a 1967 Mustang, I've had a few of those in my day that I've restored from the ground up with my Dad as a father son project.  Anything with fuel injection scares the crap out of me.

stash4cash

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #55 on: October 30, 2014, 07:47:34 AM »
Now maybe its because I have a house the same size :) but I personally wouldn't get hung up on the house if you think it'll hold value and you are paying it down. Until you have trimmed a lot of other things, I wouldn't bother even thinking about it as moving can be expensive and it sounds like it is a major source of angst for your wife.

Personally, I've used Mint for tracking spending - free and easy. My wife hates it though when I whip out the computer and show her charts that refute what she thinks she spent haha. :)


What 6 shows do you like? Its likely the community can help (as long as its not NFL haha).

begood

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #56 on: October 30, 2014, 07:59:13 AM »
I agree with the recommendation of Mint.

If your wife doesn't want to have to track her spending, just tell her to use as little cash as possible and use her credit cards for all expenses. Then connect those credit cards in Mint and YOU will be able to see the breakdown of expenses very easily.

We started using Mint in May, and it does help me feel more "on top" of things. I have a clear picture of where we're spending money because we're using very little cash - all our discretionary expenses are on one of our three credit cards.

That way you can get the information you need and all your wife has to do *at this point* is remember to use the cards instead of cash.

Gimesalot

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #57 on: October 30, 2014, 08:12:41 AM »
  I do agree with the Drycleaning - some of my shirts that I've had for 2-3 years still look new as a result of it (I'm actually somewhat frugal with clothing for myself) but maybe it's time to go buy a couple of non-wrinkle shirts so I can drop the Dry Cleaning bill.  I only kept it around by justifying it as a 2106 expense for work, which I think is pretty close to a dollar for dollar tax deduction up to a certain %. 

Nope!  Form 2106 calculates your non-reimbursed work expenses for Schedule A.  Schedule A applies a 2.0% of AGI deductible ($2532 according to MDM's calculations).  So most likely you are not meeting your deductible on this expesnse.  On top of that, if you make it past the deductible, you are only reducing your taxable income, meaning you won't pay taxes on $1080.  You do not get a dollar for dollar tax deduction.

TLDR:  There is no tax benefit to your dry cleaning. Buy dryel, do your own dry cleaning at home. 

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #58 on: October 30, 2014, 08:29:13 AM »
Now maybe its because I have a house the same size :) but I personally wouldn't get hung up on the house if you think it'll hold value and you are paying it down. Until you have trimmed a lot of other things, I wouldn't bother even thinking about it as moving can be expensive and it sounds like it is a major source of angst for your wife.

Personally, I've used Mint for tracking spending - free and easy. My wife hates it though when I whip out the computer and show her charts that refute what she thinks she spent haha. :)


What 6 shows do you like? Its likely the community can help (as long as its not NFL haha).

I'm also an NFL freak unfortunately (think I'm up to 10 years or so wasting money on the Sunday Ticket).  The house is in a highly sought after Neighborhood in AZ that's surprisingly got some national attention.  Values increase, and we have a great interest rate on the house.  I've considered refinancing, but at this point, one thing at a time so I don't get overwhelmed.

I'll check out mint tonight - free is definitely good.

Gimesalot - good points, I'm not an accountant or a tax whiz, just something that someone told me a few years ago that I took at face value without doing my research.

tracylayton

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #59 on: October 30, 2014, 08:55:31 AM »
No face punches from me. It takes time to implement changes, and you are taking the right steps. If you were too hardcore, it would probably backfire with the wife. Keep up the good work!

TN_Steve

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #60 on: October 30, 2014, 08:57:05 AM »

***
6) Lose the Dry Cleaning bill - cheaper, no wrinkle clothes, dry em at home :)

***

I'll second (third?) this.  I wear suit/tie every week day.  Look up non-iron cotton.  You can be as dressed up as you want/need and avoid pressing charges with ease.  Even available in french cuffs and non-traditional collars.  Not cheap to buy @ 60ish, but they last and pay for themselves if you need to dress at that level--and stay wrinkle-less all day with much more comfort than starch.  Best consistent deal I've found is at Paul Frederick, although Jos. Bank is similarly priced.  (N.B.--brooks brothers' version has no breast pockets)  Here is a frugal blogger's look at them:  http://www.frugal-mama.com/2012/04/are-no-iron-shirts-worth-the-money-heres-the-low-down/

stash4cash

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #61 on: October 30, 2014, 08:59:34 AM »
One other thing since you are in IT like I am.  Have you raised the discussion about working from home a day or two a week? Saves you money and the mental anguish of commuting.

I sense your reluctance on DirectTV. Here's what I did two years ago. Prepped in Nov or Dec by getting an antenna. Waited until playoffs started and killed the DirectTV bill once I confirmed antenna was working great. The playoffs are all on over the air broadcasts anyway (with perhaps one exception on the NFL channel). Enjoyed the savings until the next September and then made a final decision to never go back. :)

My wife brings up Sunday Ticket almost every week during football season, she loves the NFL even more than I do. Haha. But otherwise, to be honest, she absolutely -loves- the no cable situation, particularly for the kids.

ambimammular

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #62 on: October 30, 2014, 09:33:48 AM »
Sounds like you're getting your wife on board with the saving. Cheers to that!

One of the best tips I know for becoming conscientious about your spending is to write it down. When you write it, the purchase is deliberate. You can't mindlessly toss something into the cart. It gives you a second to pause and really feel that money flow away from you. Sometimes just that realization can make you rethink how badly you want the junk in your hand, and back on the shelf it goes.

Same thing works well for calorie intake. Anyway after a while you have the conscientious buying programed into your routine and you can just use Mint as a check up. That's where we are now.

Best of luck!

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #63 on: October 30, 2014, 09:45:20 AM »
Thanks for all the tips!

We will start with Mint but also look at YNAB since that forces you to enter your purchases.  Funny how I don't want to spend the money on YNAB but I get skittish about killing off cable!

Anyhow - WFH isn't really an option since I have a staff that I manage (they are great though and I enjoy being around them).

No cable for the kids sounds awesome... they already play outside alot but maybe that's something they should be doing even more of. 

Hoping the Jeep sells soon and I can find something cheap to drive shortly.  Will update everyone after meeting with my Pastor on Sunday so I can share budget and next steps.

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #64 on: October 30, 2014, 09:47:00 AM »
Do you have a term life insurance policy?  If not, you should think hard about getting one.  You are the sole breadwinner supporting 4 kids and a spouse and you don't have a substantial net worth.  What would happen to your family financially if you died?

Sorry missed this - yes I have life insurance.  I have around 1.5M ADD coverage through work, and about 1.2M in term life coverage between work and supp policies.  That monthly cost is factored into my 120/mo insurance bill since it's with the same company as my auto insurer.

geek101

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #65 on: October 30, 2014, 10:46:22 AM »
I think the biggest thing you can do as you continue to work on your finances is to re-evaluate your perspective.  Although you are overall net worth positive, you are carrying 482.5k in debt from your first post. That's an insane figure.

Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender." You are a slave to your debt. You would prefer to take a pay cut to have a different/less demanding job, but right now that would be disastrous to you and your family because of your spending. Your money is ruling over you. If you did that with your current spending your kids might starve. You're a slave to your job. Don't believe me? Let's say you can get your spending down to your target for November of $6,665/mo. Want to improve your life by taking that 80k/year job? NOPE. Your spending would be $80,100 for the year. You are going to accumulate more debt.

Lets say you hit your 5k/mo goal for 2015 (a good goal by the way), and maintain it through the year. Assuming you are able to take an easier job at 80k a year to support that spending, you have 20k then to attack debt and build your net worth, and your quality of life is the same for your family and better for you due to the better job. However, assuming you take that excess 20k and apply it to the debt exclusively, that's going to take you 8 years to pay off. That's how big a hole you've dug yourself into.

Right now, you are spending $3,770 per month on debt payments alone. That's an annual salary of just over 45k a year. The median household income in America is around 51k. So you are almost spending as much on your debts as the average american household lives on per year.

I'm not trying to guilt you for having nice things, it's your life, life it how you want! I just want you to take a look at your life and determine what is really important.

It sounds like your wife especially loves your house. That's great! If that's what's important to her, absolutely keep it and count it as a blessing that you are living in beautiful AZ with a pool! Imagine how great it will feel living in that house when it's completely paid for!

On the flip side, it sounds like your car isn't that important to you. Significantly down grade an never look back. 

Find what is important. It sounds like you would really like a different job. If that's important to you, you and your family are going to have to make significant sacrifices to get there. However, once you determine what really brings you joy, what's really important, I'd be willing to bet that cutting a few thousand per month of your budget won't be that hard, and you won't miss a lot of those 'luxuries.'

Find what really matters to you and make sure your spending reflects that. Make your money work for you for the life you want. Stop being a slave to your spending, take ownership of your money and control it, not the other way around.

P.S. Check out the "Snowflake strategy" to debt repayment. You're plan will probably include a mixture of debt payment and investing as you don't have any high interest debt, but you need to learn about a solid debt repayment plan, as your posts earlier about paying off the wife's car show you could learn more about debt repayment and how to make the math work for you. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/how-to-use-the-snowflake-strategy-for-debt-repayment/ 

SunshineGirl

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #66 on: October 30, 2014, 11:06:39 AM »
Thanks for coming back to update us, and congratulations for starting to make some positive changes. Will you share what your pastor advised you?

One thing I do which gives us an automatic boost to savings is that paychecks are deposited into a savings account, and then on the first of every month, a certain amount is transferred into our checking account. What remains goes to savings, BUT the really nice thing is that those two extra paychecks per year don't automatically go into the spending account. They stay in the savings account. The same thing could happen with your bonuses - it just stays behind and doesn't get mingled with money ear-marked for day-to-day expenses.

Keep on keeping on!

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #67 on: October 30, 2014, 11:44:56 AM »
Thanks!  Will absolutely report back on Sunday afternoon/Monday.  I asked to find some way to contribute monthly from a tithing perspective so we can give regularly instead of just flying by the seat of our pants.

I do appreciate all the comments and advice, as well as the "encouraging" face punches.  Not saying it's not warranted - just need to get to work.

Catbert

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #68 on: October 30, 2014, 12:05:06 PM »
Wow.  When I read your update I had a totally different take than most posters.  I think you made great progress in 60 days. 

FarmerPete

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #69 on: October 30, 2014, 12:15:43 PM »
I tried to use Mint to track things, and it certainly can show you some glaring flaws in your spending.  Things like noticing your stay at home wife likes to stop out for lunch a few times a week for some unknown reason.  The problem I ran into was that unless my wife handed me the receipts, I couldn't see what she was spending.  We do most of our shopping at Meijer (think Super Walmart except bigger, cheaper, and more normal people shop there...sorry Walmart, I feel dirty every time I walk through your door and see you customers).  If I see my wife spent $500 there in a month, I can't tell if she bought beans and rice, liquor, or twenty pairs of yoga pants.

Until recently, I ran our finances with Excel.  I had a list of all of our expenses for each month.  I had irregular bills (annual/biannual) setup to save money every month.  Paying the auto insurance bill was never a big deal any more.  I had sink funds for auto/home repairs.  I had been putting money into a "new car" fund.  I was maxing out my company match on my 401k.  My spreadsheet had my expenses and my wife's expenses separated.  Every month, I deposited her money into her account.  I told her that I didn't care how she spent it, as long as the things that were in our budget got paid.  I tried to keep her account balance at a fixed level ($1000).  If she was below $1000 at the start of the next month, we would talk about it and depending on the situation, we would adjust things or transfer extra money to cover extra expenses.  The system kind of worked, except really, neither of us knew what percent either of us spent on anything.  We each only had $50 for spending money.  Mine got mostly spent on lunch once a week and the occasional slurpee.  Hers was spent on those lunches, but either she overspent it, or she used it to cover overages on other areas.  I thought my finances were under control, and really the fixed expenses were managed very well.  Our discretionary expenses were basically organized chaos.  We knew what we wanted to spend money on, but rarely did we ever spend it on them.

After having some hard discussions, I got my DW onboard with using YNAB.  Unlike Mint, she now enters transactions on her phone.  She does the splits so that we can clearly see that $X from meijer was for food, $X for her personal spending, $X for household, etc.  It's also good to be able to pull up the app, see you have $20 in grocery budget left this month, and realize you can't buy the $30 in ribs you really want to buy because it's such a good sale.  Money has to come from somewhere, and YNAB stops you from spending money you don't have if you follow it.  I've told my wife that except for one or two categories (reimbursable expenses being one of them), we have to be >=$0 in each category at the end of each month.  We can move stuff from groceries to fuel, or household to entertainment, but if those are all tapped out, we'll have to make harder decisions like taking from vacation savings or gifting/christmas. 

YNAB helps you realize that you don't have the money to buy what you want before you buy something.  Before, I would be suckered in by sales and deals.  Sure, I might buy stuff for cheaper than normal, but was it stuff I needed?  Hardly.  Today is the 30th, and we have $0 left in groceries.  If I go to the store today, I can't buy any groceries.  Period.  I'm not going to let my family starve, but we don't need any food.  We've got plenty at home.  It might not be fresh, and it might not be the preferred items, but we bought it, and quite frankly, we better eat it.

If you or your wife are like me, I got sucked into the idea that I could always get money from somewhere.  I've always lived below my means to some extent, and I've always had enough savings to weather any small dips or bumps.  Making our spending match the values that we profess we want, really was a hard task, but it's very rewarding.  Finally, we can see our savings going up.  We know what we spend our money on, why we spend it on those things, and we save for expenses instead of worrying about where money is going to come from.  The key to getting my DW to sign on to YNAB was by pitching the idea that this wasn't handcuffs to limit how we spend money.  It was a tool to make sure that we spent money how we wanted to spend money.  We can always change our mind later.  If you have any goals for your life, you can't afford not to budget and somewhat scrutinize your spending.

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #70 on: October 30, 2014, 04:27:41 PM »
Good points.  I think physically entering each expense into YNAB is a good idea, and something that might help us.  I'm going to hold off until we meet with our pastor on Sunday and take inventory from there.  Right now we use excel, but we just pull money from savings to cover the shortfalls, then replenish the savings with any tax returns or annual bonuses.  This obviously isn't working, so YNAB may be next step after our Sunday meeting.

JoyBlogette

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #71 on: October 30, 2014, 06:00:58 PM »
I was really excited to see an update from you, but a bit disappointed with how little progress was made -- I have to second Alpaca's comments:

Quote
I'm confused about your priorities.  You cancelled your children's gymnastics, but kept two expensive cars, cable, pool care, dry cleaning, and a ridiculous gas bill.  Your wife refuses to sell the house.
+1

If you cancelled the TV, Pool services and cut your Dry-cleaning bill in half you could pay for Gymnastics with the savings.  It seems that you are not prioritizing based on importance to your family, but instead on what is easy. 

I think that you need a bigger challenge to prove to yourself how much happier you could be.  Sometimes jumping in with both feet is the way to go.  For example: a month of giving up TV, a $200 food budget for the month, no "free" spending for a month, trying a one-car month.

With only minor changes you will only see minor results.  For big results, you'll need to make big changes.  Try something drastic, it's only 30 days.  You could do anything for 30 days right?  I think the most important change for you to make is to change your attitude.

Kyran Vale

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Re: Looking To Turn Things Around Financially - Need Some Advice
« Reply #72 on: October 30, 2014, 07:06:49 PM »
Have a few cars lined up I might go look at this weekend.  I figure if I found the right car, no reason to not purchase it while I'm waiting for the Jeep to sell if it was a decent deal.

http://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/cto/4739188429.html - 2003 Camry with 113k Miles & new tires @ 5300
http://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/cto/4734292001.html - 2005 Corolla with Manual Trans, 119k miles @ 4750
http://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/cto/4702578012.html - 2008 Ford Focus with Manual Trans, 109k Miles @ 4500

I almost feel better with the 2005 Corolla or 2008 Focus knowing I can probably get either for closer to 4k than the Camry.  I'm thinking the 2008 looks like the best deal out of the 3?

Thoughts?