Me vs Dave

All I want to say is: sure am glad that I have the extra money I posted about yesterday. Details to come soon…

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But it brings me back to the me vs. Dave Ramsey thoughts (and I’m not really against Dave – I have serious respect for him and his teachings). If I was following Dave’s baby steps, I’d be out some cash that I might need in order to make a more serious investment toward paying off our debt. But I’m not following his baby steps (although the 10 stones aren’t all that different) because I think my personal situation and comfort level don’t really jive with them.

But if Dave works for you – great! I am glad you have found an approach that you can dedicate yourself to. I have, too! And we can still support each other in our efforts and not pass judgement on who is doing things right or who is doing things wrong. (I’d say personal finance has no right or wrong, but I think if you are reading this blog you totally know that there is a wrong.)

While we are at it, let me confide in you that I am contemplating not doing a debt snowball of the smallest loans to the biggest because you end up paying more in interest. But I ran the numbers and attacking the highest interest rate loan first (with little snowball) only saves me a few months in repayment, so that hardly seems worth it. What is worth it: a combination. Clearing out a few of our tiny student loans, using them as the snowball, and then attacking highest interest rate to lowest. My quick estimates say that could save us over a year on our repayment. We will be running the numbers again as we approach this possibility because of the variable interest rates that our loans have.

The other consideration is keeping momentum. We have 12 loans, so I want to set us up to be able to pay off about three loans a year. We may want to hop back and forth between small balances and high interest rates in order to keep our momentum going.

Some of you are going, oh geez, I don’t want to run numbers once, much less multiple times a year. But as a rocket scientist (really), running numbers isn’t intimidating and I think it’s actually sort of fun. I know. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Seriously, though. We are in debt with over 100k in student loans after 10 years of repayment. So I think momentum is important, but so is finding the way that works quickest. And if that means I have to adjust course here or there, rather than just sticking to some solid advice because it’s easy and clean cut – that’s the way I want to go.

There are tons of people who offer really solid plans for getting out of debt, it’s not so much about who’s (solid) advice you follow. It’s about just starting. Just picking a direction and heading down it as fast as you can. And while we are at it – some folks are going to run breakneck speed down that path and some are going to crawl. That’s fine, too. Just keep moving!

What about you? Are you a Dave Ramsey believer? Or have you found your own path out of debt?

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What Does Grace Mean to Me?

Today I’m linking up with Meredith Bernard for Woman2Woman Wednesday where we are writing about grace and what grace means to us. Of course, my blog is about how my relationship with God affects my relationship with money, so I’m taking a look today at what grace means in light of this.

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Jesus died so I could have my house.

I know (you think I’m crazy), but follow the rantings of a sleep deprive new momma. When I saw Meredith’s question: what does grace mean to me? , my first inclination was to give the textbook answer – grace is the unmerited favor of God. And that’s absolutely true. Nothing wrong with that definition right there.

But grace is also our freedom.

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14 NASB)

I am so very glad not to be under the law, with its imperfect sacrifices and ritual cleansings and constant judgement. Under the old law, you could never be good enough. In fact, we weren’t good enough and God knew we would never be good enough, so finally a perfect sacrifice was offered instead. Jesus died to wash away my sins once and for all, because the old law never could.

How in the world did I deserve to have such a precious thing done for my eternal soul? Well, I didn’t deserve it. It was a gift. It was God’s grace that covered me. And through Christ’s death, it’s clear to me that grace is actually unconditional love.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NASB)

So here’s the really humbling connection – Jesus died for my sins. I bought a house to keep up with the Joneses, which is nothing more than being greedy or covetous. Jesus died so I could have my house. Wow.

So that’s what grace means to me. Grace = love = ultimate sacrifice. And it’s something I don’t deserve and all too often overlook.

June Challenge (Murphy Fund) Status

One week ago, I wrote that it was our goal to have a Murphy Fund by the end of the month. Guess what? We have a Murphy Fund. That means we have completed the second of ten steps in Steve Digg’s No Debt! No Sweat!

We actually have just a bit more than is required for our Murphy Fund. Now here’s where it gets difficult for us. The extra should go straight toward debt. But. (There’s always a but.)

A while back I wrote how crushed I was that a certain opportunity didn’t come through. It was an opportunity to move close to family. An opportunity to be home. And possibly, for me to stay home. Although I wrote that it didn’t come through, to date we’ve received no official notification to that effect. In the online system, his application still shows as “under review”. I’m fairly certain that the month that has passed between the final interview and, well, now is a bad sign. but I can’t seem to let go of it. The whole family had such high hopes and we were all praying night and day. It seemed so perfect.

So, remember – the opportunity didn’t pay relocation. We would have needed to fund our move somehow. And here I’ve come up with this small pot of money…

Part of me says this opportunity just might come through. That I should save the money and be thankful that God has provided.

And then. Then there’s the thought that I’m being tested. That the moment I turn loose of the extra funds and actually get busy paying down our debt, we will have the most awesome opportunity laid at our feet. That I need to show my faith.

Proverbs 19:2

The last thing I want to do is rush into a decision. Financial decisions have not been a strong point (hellooooo! Blog!). Sometimes the wisest thing we can do is wait (and pray!) So that’s what we will do for now. Nothing but pray. At some point, that position will be filled. And if it’s filled by my husband, we are going to end up with some extra cash on hand to help us move. If it’s filled by someone else, we are going to end up with cash to start paying down our debt. Either way, it’s exciting to me 🙂

How have you quieted your impulsive tendencies with money?

21 Ways To Earn Extra Money

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You can find me on Twitter now @indebtedmom 🙂

Awhile back I asked if anybody had ideas – besides a garage sale – for making money. We have plenty to sell and we intend to hold a garage sale later on, but as a full-time working breastfeeding mom with a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night (gasp), I’m fresh out of energy to organize a garage sale.

I’m not the only one looking for some ideas, so I consulted the expert. You know, Google. Because if I had original ideas about making money I wouldn’t be writing a blog about debt. I found a few ideas repeated over and over but what follows is a list of things I would possibly try (no direct sales – #notasalesperson) and things that have the potential to allow a mom to be with her kiddos (no call center jobs). Because I’m not afraid of a little controversy, I’ve even included a couple of rarely mentioned ideas that might not sit well with everyone. But let’s still be friends, k?

Baby steps – easy ideas, but generally low or limited return:

  1. Appraise Collectibles. Anything from jewelry to china to weird, old hand-me-down kitsch could bring in more money than you might expect. We just found a very old quarter in my daughter’s piggy bank that might be worth over $100. Look everywhere!
  2. Sell your old cell phone. This is one we’ve been discussing for awhile, as we’ve had several iPhone upgrades. Our old phones are just lying around, but there is a market for them!
  3. Sell plasma. I have a friend that sells plasma about once a week. It’s a 90 minute commitment that he does while his daughter is at dance class and he gets about $40.
  4. Use apps. Do a little research on apps that pay you for something you might already be doing or buying anyway. I used Ibota before – didn’t like it. Now I’m trying out ReceiptHog and hubby’s going to use Gigwalk during lunch breaks. The list of apps paying is seemingly endless. Here’s a starter list.
  5. Rewards programs. Rewards programs are not just for credit cards, although, if you have a credit card that’s an option. Upromise.com allows you to shop your favorite online and local merchants and save money for college. No, it doesn’t add up fast, but every little bit counts, especially when you were going to spend the money anyway.

Preschooler steps: ideas that require more effort, but earn a little more

  1. Flipping cast-off items. One lady in a forum told me she was on track to make $100 this month from scrap metal finds like grills, set out as trash. We drove by three sets of couches last Saturday and the thought did occur to me that I could take them and possibly sell them. Good friends of ours in Texas were notorious for finding their (cute!) furniture on the side of the road, so not everything being thrown away is really “trash”. Some people frequent garage sales and antique sales for the purpose of reselling the items at a mark-up. You can apparently become a millionaire!
  2. Surveys. Each survey takes a bit of time and the money made is not awesome, but the important thing is that money can be made! Check out sites like swagbucks.com or through Money Savings Mom (which I did to weekend).
  3. Clinical research. Note that you might have to make some adjustments to you life to comply with the terms of the research.
  4. Launch a craft business. I’ve seriously thought about taking up jewelry making and selling my items. I just don’t know if I’d even like it, so I hate to waste money on that unknown, but if you are already doing something and enjoying it – think about how you could market it. I know a knitter who has made quite the business for herself!

Teenage steps: takes quite a bit of time, but potential to make a living

  1. Monetize your blog. Hmmm. I might have to do this. I am already switching to WordPress.org soon because I want to post a widget with a debt ticker, so I’m moving the right direction. Even just $50 a month would make a difference in when our loans get paid off…
  2. Sell your photos. My husband is a decent photographer. It’s one of his hobbies and he posts his work to Facebook. From that alone, he’s sold prints of his work and been hired by folks to take engagement and family photos. So there’s that, but stock photo sites are always paying for photos if every day items, like forks or diapers.
  3. Babysitting. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the patience or desire, then do not do this. Especially full time. When we first moved to this area, none of the daycares had openings, so we hired a sitter. She was young and wanted to stay home with her newborn, so it seemed like a win-win, but she was in over her head with our energetic toddler and quit in three weeks, leaving us in turmoil.
  4. Pet sitting. Again, gotta be a pet lover to do this, but also take precautions. One lady in Tennessee was dog sitting for a friend when the dog attacked the sitter’s toddler.
  5. Micro task. I recently heard about sites like fiverr.com and taskrabbitt.com, which is only available in a few larger US cities. Then then I ran across Amazon’s Mechanical Turk site which seems promising. One reviewer says you can possibly make minimum wage at it, but it’s really best for work to fill in some time. Elance.com also offers small time commitment opportunities.
  6. Teach a class. If you can play piano, teach piano lessons. If you are a photographer, offer basic photography lessons. I was so in love with the natural birth class I took, I got certified as an instructor (and have stupidly let that certification slip).

Adult steps: actual job ideas that offer flexibility

  1. Virtual jobs. I’ve registered for flexjobs.com – you have to pay for this service, but you can locate a flexible, work from home opportunity that aligns with your talents. Virtual assistants are becoming quite the “thing” lately; I keep seeing successful bloggers who employ one. Also: Leapforce hires folks to work from home and some Elance.com opportunities are long term.
  2. House cleaning business. I’ve read about women who take their children along when they clean houses with the approval of the client. Face it, your children have to be of a certain age to make this work out. And you have to clean.
  3. Franchises. I’m a runner and am totally gaga over the fitness / nutrition industry. I was pointed to a low startup franchise in that field and have really wanted to do it, but current franchise owners tell me it’s like a full-time gig and it doesn’t make money immediately. Ideas like this are best if you have the investment capital and are just looking for extra income – not working full time and not trying to survive.
  4. Paper route. I’ve seriously considered this one! Papers have to be delivered early, so, depending on your family’s schedule, it’s possible to get back before the kids are up and your spouse heads out the door.

Crazy Aunt: takes a special person and might offend some people

  1. Selling Breastmilk. Some moms pay up to $4 an ounce for breastmilk pumped by a mom on a special diet that jives with their child’s tummy. It’s more common to be paid about $1 an ounce, so the mark-up for a child that already has some problems seems like price gouging to me. Also know that some moms donate huge amounts of milk after weaning – not everyone would be on board with your decision to earn money this way.
  2. Surrogate mom. I really, truly liked being pregnant. I didn’t find it hard or uncomfortable and both my labors were unmedicated and still pain-free. I could be pregnant 30 times, but I’m no Michelle Duggar; I think I can only raise two kiddos. Surrogates are paid several thousand dollars during their pregnancy, but you’d have lots to consider before under taking something so life-altering and emotional. And not everyone would feel comfortable charging for this. This is altogether a very personal decision, and don’t forget how hubby and kiddos could be affected, too. This article addresses how much money can be made.

One note on selling plasma, breastmilk, and renting out your womb: the people on the other side are in need. A medical need, maybe very tragic. On top of that, these people are quite possibly fretting about money more than you are. At the same time, over and over I read blogs and forums advising – with contempt, in some cases – for people to sell clothes and furniture and toys to make headway on debt. So, as long as you are consistent in your outrage, comment away 🙂

I have no idea why you are reading this post today (you might be asking yourself that, too ;-)). Maybe it was just something to read. Maybe you are short a little cash each month or need a little extra to be able to do something fun. Or maybe you are like me – motivated to stay home with your kiddos and/or pay off some debt. Please examine your motivations and don’t deceive yourself that you needy ideas to provide when, deep down, you are working to seek wealth and comforts. (Prov 23:4). Because it’s much better to seek a God first, to make Him a priority. Allow Him to be your treasure and you just might be surprised at how that changes the view of your finances.

Have you tried any of these ideas with any success? What ideas are you most likely to try?

Success Story Saturday

We are right at $100k in debt after 10 years of student loan repayment. This blog is my story of how we are trying to figure our way out of debt. Our debt that has made it impossible for me to afford to stay home with my two girls. It’s an accountability blog, knowing I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other – even if we are just shuffling along – in order to have something to tell the world. But every Saturday I’ve been checking in on what I did right, because I sometimes need to force myself to be positive 🙂 If you are stopping in and have a financial success story to share, I’d love to hear it and if it’s meaty enough, maybe you could write a guest post?

Here’s what we have going for us this week:
I researched ways to make a little extra money, because every bit counts. And I came up with some good ideas (and I couple of out there ones) that I’ll share tomorrow. I’m hoping to earn an extra $100 a month, which would help us knock about a year off the remaining 8 years of our student loan payments. Not bad for some pretty easy ideas! I’ve already begun taking action on four ideas and I’m super excited to see how they pan out.

We have done really, really well not running to the store. We are keeping impulse buys in check, which was our biggest weakness. This is a major step in the right direction.

We have made smart decisions about everything from where to buy gas to taking our lunches to work every day. I did forget my lunch one day, but I had been gifted a bag of snack foods as a welcome back present, so I used that to get me through the day.

My husband and I are communicating about money every day – talking about the budget and all my ideas to make a few extra dollars a month and how to spend unexpected money. I have even brought up the totally crazy ideas – not holding anything back. And you know what? I feel more connected to my husband. More like a team. Even though we are swimming in a huge sea of debt – waves crashing all around us – I feel like we are in it together, helping the other stay afloat. It’s crazy how it makes me feel absolutely positive about what may be right around the bend for us.

I can’t help but think that God has something really special in store for us. That every bad choice and decision we’ve made is putting us on this road for a reason. And maybe that’s simply to share my story with the few people that stop by each day. Or maybe it’s something more special and personal to our family. But God is up to something. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

I’m reminded of the Biblical steward (Luke 16) – to whom much was entrusted and much was expected. And oh how much we’ve had. And how miserably we have failed. But I sense God saying “you have repented and now your heart is right, so let Me see what you will do with this little bit extra.” I see the challenge before us and I’m up for it.

Tell me – what’s your biggest success in managing your money?