Saturday, August 08, 2009

One Year Financial Update

I dealt with the nicest credit card customer service person yesterday. She was so helpful that I almost asked if she was a Dave Ramsey disciple who had gone to work at the credit card company in order to help folks reduce their servitude to the banks. She lowered our interest rate, which had been at 19.99% since a year ago (due to a bill last August that we had paid pro rata while beginning to turn our financial ship around) and also helped me transfer a good portion of our other credit card debt to this company with a blessed 1.99% interest rate-- and I do mean blessed, because that other credit card company has been charging us 29.99% and when I talked to them on the phone about reducing their usurous rate* they basically said, "tough luck" and "you made your bed, now lie in it" and other things of an unmerciful and ungracious nature. The accomodating customer service rep also gave us a $30 credit on our account to avoid the possibility that the balance transfer might send us above our credit limit.

All of this adds up to a savings of $155 per month on finance charges for at least the next eight months.

That awful rate on the second credit card bill was eating our lunch, I'll tell you. We hadn't made much progress on our debt for months, despite sending around $700 or more combined every month to those two companies. We were paying $300 per month in finance charges, combined. It was terribly discouraging.

Also, for the sake of honesty I want to mention that we went to paying the minimums for the summer, which has always been the most expensive time of year for us, what with visiting family and friends and preparing for the new school year. This is not what Dave recommends, but I just don't know how to not go see my family every year, especially my 84yo grandparents. But we did not go further into debt to do it. So I guess we aren't living with quite as much gazelle-like intensity as we should, but like I said earlier, I just can't say "no seeing far away friends and family" if there is some way we can visit. (And yes, it is all me. Mr. Honey is much better at being disciplined where travel expenses are concerned.) And we would both rather not have homeschooling be a casualty of our financial stupidity, although the idea of giving it up has been discussed. (And discarded. But it has been discussed. We know that homeschooling puts an additional financial burden on us.) But we are back to putting everything** not necessary for basic living onto the credit cards, and I have a hope that we will have it all paid off in one year (oh, please, let us pay it off in one year).

For the record, we are down to $11,700 on credit card debt, from $17,000 one year ago.

Also, here is an example of that awful thinking that gets me into trouble: A couple of days ago I was at the Kroger and saw a nice seven-piece patio set for $187.99, which included a large rectangular wrought-iron and glass table, four cushioned wrought-iron seats, an umbrella and umbrella stand. This is a great deal in our area for a patio set, and I have wanted one for at least five years. (We have a table that we got for free, but no seating.) I immediately decided I was going to push for buying that table with Mr. Honey, rationalizing that it was such an killer deal and we had the money... in our emergency fund... As I began to talk through the idea, the Lord thankfully revealed to me that a killer deal on a patio set is not an emergency. Shucks. I didn't even notice that until I started trying to convince another person that this was a good idea.

What a sinner I am. This is the kind of thinking that keeps us under the power of the credit card companies, even if we don't go into debt to make purchases. If we are in debt, we need to forego a lot of things and focus on paying off the debt as soon as possible.

So I guess you could say that financial decisions continue to be a struggle for me. Prayers for wisdom and resistance to temptation are appreciated.

This may be too much honesty for some people, and if it is, I apologize. But light dispels darkness, and I want to call my financial sin what it is. I want folks to know that regular people that others think are upstanding quietly wrestle with sin like this. (Only, obviously, I am not being quiet about it. And perhaps there aren't many people that think we are upstanding, but it seems like people think that.)

*The rate on this other account was a result of the same pro rata decision last August, as well as our occasional failure to pay on time despite good intentions, because the payment due date was too close to Mr. Honey's payday and if I didn't get the payment in the mail the absolute moment his check hit our account, it would be one day overdue. I know, I should have called and had them change the due date the first month it happened, but I kept forgetting, and I really despise talking to those people on the phone. How expensive was my carelessness and repulsion!

**I just realized that this sounds like we are charging things on the credit card, but what I mean is that we are putting all *money* not necessary for daily living on the credit card debt. That was a little confusing.

No comments: