2011 end of year blowout spending recap/2012 the year of change

January 19, 2012 at 8:54 am (credit cards, house, overspending, things I bought)

Warning. You’re about to see what amounts to a TON of excuses. It all starts with a story about changing our living room from carpet to wood floors. Back in the days when Mr. Maven was still in the picture, he had a serious aversion to our hunter green 12 year old carpet. He knew the old 1920s house we rented had hardwood floors underneath. He convinced the landlord (who is pretty nice) to agree to remove the carpet, provided the floors were good enough to be refinished. Part of that process involved moving ALL furniture out of thel iving room into the rest of the house. We live in a 700 sq. ft. house. The living room is by far the largest room.

Ok, that process took a solid 2 weeks. Then since the furniture was out, we used the opportunity to repaint the dingy yellowy-white walls with bad hole repairs done without touchups, and the one dark, wood panelling a bright, fresh white. Trimming, and marking off what not to paint. Multiple coats of primer, then paint, then drying, all with kitties running underfoot. It took a week. I felt like I lived in a hoarder house for 3 weeks. All that climbing over furniture every time I wanted to move around!

Ok, then we moved back INTO the refurbished room. No rug. no place soft to sit on or lie on. All of a sudden, the makeshift furniture I had didn’t quite do the room justice. I ended up buying 2 pieces of furniture. One a really really super awesome 1940s sideboard with mirror. It is soooo pretty. $800. Yikes. Then I replaced a makeshift curio/bookshelf cabinet thing with a better version – it had wide storage underneath to hide some larger art books and music CDs,  and an upper half that was shelved and had doors with decorative glass that kept my prized collection of art ceramics free from dangerous kittens knocking them over. Small antique glass-fronted cabinet? $400.

Oh, and about this time, my computer totally crashed. 3 year old HP laptop, kaput. I had to buy a new laptop, with, ahem, a friendly ex-Microsoft employee helping out with a cheap Microsoft Office (shhh, don’t tell) at seriously reduced costs, for about $750 total.

Add in the absolute craziness of living like a hoarder and the inability to stick to mundane tasks like regularly cooking meals at home because there was NO FRIGGIN’ ROOM to move in the kitchen, and there were some overzealous spending in the grocery/restaurant/pizza front. A few hundred here, surely.

Then finally, oh yes, was a relatively unhappy trip I allowed myself to be talked into going, against my better judgement, and with, unfortunately, a lot of resentment – going with mr. maven to visit his family for thanksgiving. In North Dakota. With our cats, which meant driving, not taking a train. Mr. maven refuses to fly, and no cats on the train, so driving it was. I used 3 days of vacation. I paid for 50% of the gas and motels. I used my car and had to spent a ton of money on maintenance in advance. I had to get an extra oil change, since the whole trip was like 2300 miles (and do you think mr. maven paid for any of the car maintence or chipped in towards wear and tear? I’ll let you deduce that yourselves). Anyway. The whole reason I said I would go, was so that I could meet his mom. His mom lives in Texas but was going to come up to visit the rest of the family at that time. 2 days before we were to leave, we got word she wasn’t going to go. GRRRRR. But at that point, unfortunately, I was committed. And even more unfortunately, I didn’t want to go, didn’t relish the trip, and felt really resentful about spending the money and using my hard-earned vacation time for someone else’s family. Sorry for the big hateful venting here, but I couldn’t say any of this to mr. maven. I can’t say I was a thrill to be around, and you now know how this ends (mr. maven has just moved to ND and I’m now single, which was not because of the trip, but happened chronologically soon after). The cost of this whole trip was about $550.

Anyway, tally up all this spending, and you’ll notice a lot of discretionary spending. This went onto my BECU credit card. I HATED it there. So I paid a ton towards it. I used up my vacation savings. I stripped my EF to pay for it. I used the remaining xmas spending to pay for it (I had a little left over). I also fully raided my kitten fund (at $930) to pay it. I got it down to zero. I was expecting to start refunding the kitten fund, when I he told me he was moving to ND to find work. And taking the kittens with him.

Well, I guess I don’t need to fund for the kittens any longer *sniff*, but you’ll notice, all my mini-funds are fully wiped out. I am starting 2012 from a very low place. Emotionally raw (I’ll get over it), financially drained (at least no credit card debt!), and with a renewed vigor to tackle my remaining debt ( hopefully an average $300 extra per month).

It’s odd to start this year off, when normally you hear people taking stock of their lives, and reflecting. Instead, I’m responding and digging out. I’m gearing up, and figuring out. I have a lot of changes ahead, but I’ll at least be more focused on what’s good for me…and my finances. Maybe that should be my them for the year…CHANGE.

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Chipping away at the debt

October 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm (credit cards, debt stats)

I just paid off the third of my remaining debts. I had to pull a little from my EF this month to keep on track, but I felt it was worthwhile to continue my momentum with J’s continued unemployment and reduced rent payments (since March!). I paid off my BECU personal loan, with an 8.9% rate. I just sent in my final $599 payment!! Now onward to my penultimate debt, a $1900 BECU bank credit card (at 6.9%). Once that is paid, which I will have done by February 2011, I will only have one last debt to plug away at.  I am really excited and energized about that.

My last debt is an SBA loan, $27,713 at 5%. It’s such a small percentage that I know I won’t have to shop around and find crazy ways to reduce my interest rates (no more reading fine print on those 0% offers!). Just the one debt, nice and easy. It will be relatively straightforward to only have one single payment to do per month. That’s it! It’s like getting a debt consolidation. I can’t wait, the end of the tunnel is in sight.

I have continued to plug in some savings in my mini-funds. I’m doing well on my gift/xmas fund, and am back to a good strength for my vehicle (now I’m just waiting for the next major blow-up). My kittens were both sick this month, so had some tests and expensive medication to pay for, so that was a wash (monthly savings = money due the vet). I bought a bunch of clothes this month too, getting ready for winter, but am keeping it pretty inexpensive.

I did get a stupid driving ticket (not using a turn signal to change lanes, how lame is that), which was totally bogus, so I am going to try to fight it in court. No payment due yet. Other than that, running things pretty lean. Spending a lot of time at home, downloading ebooks or working on the internet, so no big entertainment budget. Food as always is my largest and biggest expense, but haven’t done too many trips out to restaurants.

Yeah, I’m doing well, and I finally went under $30K of debt, I’m in the twenty nines now, and boy does that feel good!

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Disasterous change to my credit score looming!

September 8, 2010 at 8:07 am (credit cards, credit score, Uncategorized)

A credit score is partially based on how many cards you have, the credit to debt utilization, and the averge length of credit card history. For many years, I had only a Citibank card (for 18 years 8 months!). I just recently closed it. It has not yet been reported to the credit agency that Credit Karma uses (which is TransUnion), which is the way I check my credit score, so I’m waiting for the ax to fall and see how poorly that will impact my rating.

A few months ago, I had 3 credit cards and my score was 794. Since then, I opened 2 new cards (see my previous post on that subject for why), which dropped my score to 787 (6 points). Last month I closed Citibank which will result in my stats becoming a fiery burning wreck.

Let’s see what will happen:

Number of Cards: 5 (pre-Citibank closure) – 4 (post-Citibank closure)
Average years open:  5 (pre-Citibank closure) – 1 (post-Citibank closure)
Avail Credit: $41,500 (pre-Citibank closure) – $25,500 (post-Citibank closure)
Debt to Credit Ratio: 6% (pre-Citibank closure)9% (post-Citibank closure)
Credit Score:  787 (pre-Citibank closure) – PENDING (post-Citibank closure)

It will be interesting to see how these changes will affect my credit score. What’s your guess? I think it will drop into the 760s.

I now have:
Citibank (no more! Closed Aug, 2010!!!!)
Discover (leftover from a 0% transfer offer)
US Bank (non-REI, leftover from a 0% transfer offer)
BECU (low 6.9% rate)
US Bank REI (high rates, awesome paybacks, will pay in full every month).

Ugh. Big ugh. Unavoidable, and I kinda don’t care, but still!

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Goodbye Citibank!!!!

September 7, 2010 at 11:40 am (credit cards)

I did the dead! I finally closed my odious Citibank credit card last week!!!!!!! I had a minimum 0.50 charge on my account. I guess I wasn’t careful and didn’t fully pay off my balance, leaving a few cents on it, and they have a minimum charge if the percentage is under a certain amount (it was). I called to ask about it, wondering if this was part of the “spend at least xxx dollars or you will be charged a fee” concept I’ve been hearing about.

Luckily it wasn’t, but it still gave me an excuse to talk to customer service. I asked about my account closure, if that was still going to happen due to my previous opt-out of a rate hike (when I started my debt-free journey) and she said that it was. She also offered to close it for me right then, and I said what hey, let’s do it! So my account is officially closed!

I’m still vaguely surprised that they offered to close it. Maybe their customer service agents are tasked with reining in credit as much as possible. Still, it seems so strange that they’d volunteer to close my account so early (I had about 10 months left on it).

I just checked my credit karma account to see the impact on my credit score, but it doesn’t seem to have been reported yet. I will definitely see a big impact I think – I’ve had this card for 18 yrs 8 months (!) and the rest of them are all 3 years and younger. It also has a huge credit limit, $16,500, so my credit utilization will increase quite a bit too, and in a very bad way. Oh well, can’t do much about that.

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Why I opened 2 new credit cards

September 6, 2010 at 4:12 pm (credit cards)

At the beginning of the summer I was trying to consolidate and simplify my online banking. I’ve become annoyed with having to pay other institutions and the big time delay to pay outside of my bank. Because of that, and knowing that I would be soon closing my oldest (and worst) credit card, Citibank, I wanted to get a new “main” card for internet purchases and for recurring automatic charges. Since I am now banking with BECU credit union, I thought it would be prudent to have a credit card with the same issuer, so that I could pay it off easily just by doing an internal online banking transfer (insta-pay!). So I opened a BECU credit card with 6.9% – a very good basic card!

Then I started hiking *a lot* this summer. I kept buying things at REI. My friend has an REI card, but I never thought anything of it until several store visits later, waiting in line, I picked up their “apply for an REI visa” pamphlet. What?!?! An extra 5% back on REI purchases? 1% back on *any* purchases? No annual fee, ever? Whoa. I signed up on the spot. Took 2 weeks to get it approved, but man, what a great card! I’m not doing mileage rewards (no travel plans for years in my future), and I don’t stay in hotels, so this is the best option for a reward card I could find. And unlike Discover, it’s a Visa, so anyone will take it. The only downside is that they have a fairly high rate (14.99 or something like that), but that won’t matter as I don’t plan on carrying a balance. Ever.

So my $430 REI purchases since I’ve had that card have added an additional 5% to my yearly REI dividents (they give you 10% on most purchases back the following year). That is so awesome. I did buy most of the stuff I expect I’d need for a while, so I doubt I’ll use it quite at the level I’ve done so far this year, but I still like the card.

So that’s how I ended up adding 2 new cards this summer to the mix.just

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Hiatus over; 2 new sources of credit opened

June 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm (blog housekeeping, credit cards) ()

Back finally from a 2 month blog hiatus! Still on track, just a little slower as I have dealt with a few setbacks and J’s continuing unemployment. I’ll have some upcoming posts outlining what’s been happening, but for now, I’m going to discuss my changes in my balances and current debt balance. I’ve paid off $12,00 in the last 2 months. Not horrible, but not ideal either.

All my zero percent credit card offers have now expired, so I moved everything to existing accounts and opened a few new ones that I plan on keeping and using in the coming years as my primary credit card/bank loans. However, in preparation of both both US Bank and Discover jumping from 0 to between 12-13%, I opted to get a really low 6.9% card with my credit union, BECU. I will be using this as my primary credit card to replace Citibank (which will be closing by next year due to opting out of a previous interest hike). The BECU card will also be exceptionally easy to pay off!

I transferred my remaining balance from the US Bank card to both my line of credit and credit card with BECU. As the line of credit is at 8.9% and the credit card is at 6.9%, I am going to focus 100% on the line of credit until it is paid down, then the credit card, and finally, the SBA loan which is at a  measely 5% interest rate.

I decided not to try for any more 0% interest rate cards. It could potentially save me up to $100-$150 by opening one, but I’m tired of juggling them all and I want to simplify my payments. I’ve moved all my bills to online payments, including rent to my landlord! Now with all my debts within my 2 banks, BECU and Wells Fargo (which I no longer actively use), it’s all much easier to manage.  By early 2011 I expect to only have the SBA loan left to pay.

I have reorganized my debt stat bars on the right to reflect what is paid in full, and which credit lines I have debt to pay.

So! I’m back from zombie blog land. More to come (and improved news too). Stay tuned!

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My newest credit card

April 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm (credit cards) ()

Today I opened a new credit card with the intention of it being my main credit card. It is to replace my Citibank card, which I will need to close within the next year (due to opting out of a rate hike – I need to close it before they do, which would have a more negative impact on my credit score). When I close Citibank, I expect a hit to my credit rating for 2 reasons: I’ll be losing over $16K of available credit, and I’ll be closing a card I’ve had for 19 years (all my others are upstarts from very recently, which will significantly reduce the average age of my available credit).

I opened a credit card with my credit union for several reasons. I wanted to get a new “main” card open and operating as quickly as possible, so that it has time to mature and become less new (the longer you have credit established, the better; new credit means you may have pending debts/payments you need to make, and is viewed very poorly). Another major reason I wanted one within the same institution as my checking account is for ease of paying it off. I absolutely hate making a purchase on a credit card and then having to push that expense to the following month when the payment hits – it screws with my budget! Plus, the rate I’m getting is quite excellent: 6.9%. The card I’m getting will be at $10K to start. Not too bad.

I’m going to see how long before this has an effect on my credit karma rating. I’m going to make an effort to check every day until something shows up (and I’ll of course post that info here).

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I’m back, plus a few updates

April 17, 2010 at 8:57 am (budget, credit cards, mr. maven, work) ()

Well, my angry financial episode is mostly behind me and now I’m just picking up the pieces and moving on. I’ve been sticking to my budget, with a few budget busters that I’m paying off this month on my credit card (to keep up my 100% payoff every month on new debt): some majorly expensive garden supplies to get our newly built beds up and running. I’m also getting $300 from J towards rent, down from $450 – he’s able to still contribute, though in a smaller capacity since his unemployment income is much less than when he was employed.

Let’s see, what else is new?

Car Insurance
My next year’s policy is about to start. I’m going to change it to be a monthly automatic withdrawal from my checking account – no extra fees for this, but I won’t have the last 3 months with no payments due either. My overall car insurance budget will decrease from $90 to $66. This will start in May.

US Bank Credit Card
My 0% offer ends at the end of May. The new rate will be about 12-13%. I’m going to transfer about $1,500 to my SBA and max that out (since it has the smallest interest rate of any of my debts), and place the remainder into my personal line of credit, about $4,000. The line of credit has 10% interest. I’ll then be down to 2 debts, and my focus will be on the line of credit until that is paid off.

No More Balance Transfer Credit Cards
I decided that I’d like to keep things s imple. I’m not going to go after any more 0% offers right now and rather focus on getting all my debt down to just the SBA loan. I may, however, open a credit card with my credit union – I’m going to be losing my oldest credit card in the next year due to my opting out of a credit hike, and I’d like to open one I expect I’ll be using more longer-term to replace it. Not sure when I’ll do so, maybe in the next month. If anyone has an opinions on this?

Job Furlough
I’ll do a separate post about this, but my required alternate Fridays off is about to end (next Friday may be my last Friday off), and it has nothing to do with the economy!

Mini-Fund Savings
I’ve continued to put money away for those bigger expenses while my debt payoff has slowed down. I’m on track for christmas spending, car repairs, clothes (I expect I’ll be using a big chunk as we get in to summer – I will need a $130 pair of summer sandals). I just hit my $500 goal for the kittens and I’m reconsidering if I should just keep contributing. Who knows what will happen down the road, big accident/surgery/medical care. $500 is not that much, not when we have 2 cats and twice the risk. They are not even 2 yet. Maybe I should stop and focus on debt, and recontribute when the debt is gone? I’m not sure. I’m not sure what to do with my health/medical fund. I think of it as the lowest priority, and with my income being reduced right now on 2 fronts (J’s contributions and my reduced hours), I have elected to stop contributions until one or both change.

Anyway, I hope to start plugging away in a higher capacity with my debt payments this month going forward. It’s looking better than it was a month ago, now that things are settling in to a routine and I’m getting some money from J, less than before his layoff, but more than I had expected he’d give me. In response to that, my outgoing expenses are fluctuating a little, up in some categories (groceries, gas), and down in others (coffee, liquor, restaurant, entertainment).

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Update on Discover and US Bank

December 10, 2009 at 8:22 am (credit cards) ()

I had to call all my credit cards and change my address. Luckily I did! My Discover card’s 0% transfer balance rate ended on Dec. 4! I thought it went through February (which is a year from when I began using it). Now I have to transfer all of it back to my 5% SBA bank loan (which should just fit).

Another thing I found out, you can get a 0% transfer balance offer from an existing card – I thought only cards that were seeking new customers did this. But apparently the customer service rep on the phone told me that I might be able to get another offer by the time my SBA loan matures next summer. Something to look forward to, as I’ll have to find a home for about $15,000 on my existing 3 credit cards (Discover, US Bank and Citibank which will be closed in 2011 since I opted out of their rate increases). Unless I can get an increase in the limit of my personal line of credit.

When I called my US Bank card to change the address, I asked when their 0% rate expires, and the guy on the phone said he didn’t see an expiration date?! What? Does that mean that I don’t get charged anything on this balance transfer until I pay it off in full? Why yes, it does! I didn’t know that could happen. I thought it was for the 6 months or year offer, and thenit got jacked up to a higher rate. I’m not sure if he’s making this up or didn’t know where to look in the system, but I’ll be checking in every few months just to make sure. I know it will be a year in June, so I’ll pay close attention in May and June.

I was also chatting with the Discover gal and she was trying to sell me on the items that have the 5% cashback bonus in this quarter (retailers of course). I said it really didn’t matter, since I wasn’t planning on using it all. I know how the credit card companies work. You have an existing balance with a low or no % rate. You make an additional purchase and that is at a higher rate. You pay your bill, and it all goes in one lump sum towards the lowest balance. It’s not until that is paid off that payments go towards the higher rate balance. Apparently that is changing with the new credit card legislation. In February, she told me, the minimum balance will go towards the lowest rate first, and the remaining extra amount will all go towards the highest rate. What?! How wonderful! Not that I will be racking up extra credit debt or anything, but it’s nice to know that’s changing for all the other people in credit card land.

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Citibank, I look forward to parting ways!

November 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm (credit cards) (, )

I recently heard that Citibank, in preparation of the upcoming consumer credit protection bill being enacted in February, raised rates significantly, to 30%, for some of its customers. Yet another reason I’m glad to be closing my account with them!

You’ll remember my post last winter, when they sent me a notice of increasing rates. I could choose to opt out, but they would close my card at the date of expiration and I would have to pay off the balance at that time. As a long-time customer of 18 years, I did open it in college after all and it was my first credit card, this is how they repay my loyalty? Well screw them, I said at the time. This just makes me extra glad that I’m going to get rid of the card next year.

Oh, I plan on closing it myself iin advance of that date, which will be much better for my credit score. But it makes my poor, little consumer heart glad to give them the old heave-ho. I don’t carry a balance, and always pay them in full 100% and have for the last year.

I can’t wait until my debts are paid off. I can tell you I don’t plan on using credit cards much anymore!!

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