Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Three Months: One Credit Card Paid Off!

Time for a financial update at the end of our third month of gazelle-like intensity.

This month we went on a weekend trip, a vacation, had company, paid off a credit card and finished saving up for Mariel's braces-- all in the same month the economy spiralled, or whatever they are calling what the economy did.

The two trips, one of which was to a town a couple hours from our house, were paid for by God's provision. (It's all God's provision, I know, but this was special provision not earned by our hands.) We did spend some money out of the gas and food envelopes (money we did not need to spend at home because we were out of town). The trip to California, which was a mixture of joy and sorrow, seemed to be a time of confirming the Lord's love and care for us, and I am so glad we got to go. The weekend trip was for my great-aunt Lois' funeral. She was every inch a lady, and a wonderful woman too-- one of her grandson's epitomized her character by saying, "She taught us to help others, to be generous with our time and money-- but never pay too much for peaches." Exactly. What a blessing to have known her. She was 93 and had outlived almost all of her friends, as well as all of her siblings but one-- my granddad. She is part of the reason I habitually bought my little girls white shoes at Easter to wear through spring and summer, and black shoes at Labor Day, to wear through fall and winter. The custom is classy and I do admire class. Aunt Lois had oodles of class.

Mr. Honey's dad came to town for a few days after we got back from California, and we had a lovely time showing him our neck of the woods (or is it our neck of the prairie? I don't know). Using a (rare) expense check that arrived at a great time, we got to take a guided tour of the Stockyards in Fort Worth, and also visited a local nature preserve and museum. We were able to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase a year-long family membership to the nature preserve rather than just day tickets. It was only a little more, and I used money from the Education Bucket to cover the additional cost. It really is nice not to be spending everything up. Having the "buckets"-- categories in short-term savings-- is a paradigm shift for me. Using Excel makes it easy to track how much is in each category.

In other financial news, we received the refund from the old mortgage escrow account and used it to pay off the smallest Visa bill, fill up the "bucket" for Mariel's braces, and make an additional payment on the second Visa bill. (We had three Visas. The hazards of credit-card-surfing. Hey, now we have two. Yay!)

We experienced one hiccup in the form of a $25 overdraft due to faulty arithmetic on my part. I was able to clear it up quickly, though. And of course, I wasn't happy to be paying for the speeding ticket I got at the beginning of September. But we were able to pay for it and I am taking a defensive driving course so our insurance doesn't go up. It will actually go down because our company gives a discount for people who take such courses, whether or not taking the course is the consequence of a speeding ticket.

Going forward, we should be able to start pouring at least twice as much as the minimums on the remaining two credit cards. Mr. Honey and I had a serious talk about his industry and the economy, and he seems to think his commissions will stay constant for the time being. He is watching for certain negative indications in his bigger accounts, and if he starts seeing those, we will have to switch from paying off as much debt as we can to saving as much cash as we can, just in case. For now, though, I am glad to be getting rid of debt as fast as we can. I want us to be a cash operation. :O)

Now that we have the cash to pay up-front for Mariel's orthodontic work, I am going to ask the dentist if he will give us a 15% discount. I don't know if he will, but it doesn't hurt to ask. We have the full amount saved just in case he says no.

Because of the nature of Mr. Honey's job, and the way things are so spread out in Texas, gasoline is a huge expenditure for us-- around 18% of our total budget, can you believe it? We are enjoying the lower gas prices. I filled up the minivan for under $52 the other day. I can't remember the last time I did that.

For reference, Dave's book recommends 10-15% of the income go toward transportation total-- our total transportation costs are over 25%. Way off, I know, but what can we do? It would be even higher if not for Mr. Honey's company car. His company provides a stipend for business expenses, but it is not even half of what Mr. Honey spends on gas on a monthly basis. We are so glad to see gas prices go down, even temporarily.

Our credit card debt, which was around $17,000 three months ago, is down to around $14,400. We also have the car note and the mortgage. When we refinanced, the mortage debt went up by a few thousand, too, so I think we just moved things around a little the past couple of months. But now we can really get after it, Lord willing.

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