Monday, August 23, 2010

Credit and finances

Money is a struggle right now for everyone.  I can't remember a time when I haven't stressed about money... not making enough... not knowing what to pay... hell just doing stupid things too...

So I've become obsessed... I watch Suze Orman and Till Debt do you Part with Gail Vaz Oxley (hope I spelled that right)... both of them are interesting and help in keeping me motivated. 

Best help I've gotten lately though is from Stephanie, my youngest daughter. She created a spreadsheet for her bills and sent me a version of it.  I took her spreadsheet and made my own to fit my bills etc.  Now I'm obsessed.  I have my general budget figured out from now through the end of December 2011 (yup 2011)... I know that I'll make adjustments and that figures will change.

I've never been one to plan things out long term.  My attitude has always been why bother putting the work in when tomorrow everything could change.  Well it could but here is what I discovered.  I started out only going to do my budget through the end of the year.  This is always a stressful time of year for me - from October to February we have extra expenses with birthdays and holidays.  So I thought okay I'll do a general plan and see how deep we are going to end up and what I can do to fix it. 

My first round of putting in numbers freaked me out to the point where I almost walked away - I was looking at being overbudget by a lot.  I took a deep breath and looked more closely at my numbers and realized choices were going to have to be made.  Tough choices ... but still.  I made them.  So I get through the end of the year without having any major heart attacks and I notice something.  Strangely, I see progress towards one of my BIG goals - I want to pay off all our credit card debt.  I see progress - I can actually see a card or two getting paid off.  What - how did that happen?  I look at the numbers ... I double and triple check because money matters never work for me and wow... sure enough if we stay on track and don't spend more on gifts then I budgeted then we will be able to take these giant leaps forward.

This is the first time I've seen progress on this... I have been stressing and considering getting a second job ... so to see things going the right way was quite the surprise.  I thought okay I'll do a few more months to see how long it will take to pay off the rest of the credit cards.  I figured it would take a couple of years - maybe more. 

I was surprised.  If we stay on track and don't have any catastrophes (cross your fingers and pray to all the gods and goddesses) then by the end of next year we will be out of credit card debt.  Sixteen months.. that is it.  I thought it would be years!!! 

So I got a bill in the  mail today.  I sat down to my budget spreadsheet and entered it in and discovered - oh no that week we are short.  So I shuffled and creatively found a way to not be short.  I'm back on budget and still getting everything paid.  The nice thing is I am not losing my goal even with the minor crisis.  It didn't affect the end results one bit. 

For the first time I feel like I might be able to make good decisions and climb out of this debt ... it is good..

To keep on track I plan to look at my budget daily.  This may be a bit obsessive but how else do you stay on top of things. 

Next for me is to call the credit card companies regularly to try to lower our interest rates ... I'll keep you posted on that task...

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