Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Putting my skepticism aside, I decided to just go for it. The worst that would happen would be that the boss would nix the idea, and I'd be back to living 2.5 hours away from my husband, maintaining 2 households, and being stupidly broke considering the kind of income we bring in.
Because I am a researcher, I started with a trusty Google search. I compiled a list of interesting documents that talked about the benefits of telecommuting arrangements. For employers, research has shown that they benefit from the employee's increased productivity, a drop in absenteeism, cost savings from not having to maintain a full-time office space, and reduced training expenses due to lower turnover. Knowing that I had less than 2 weeks to push this entire idea through from start to finish, I ended up purchasing a customizable telecommute proposal from http://www.workoptions.com/. It was a great start for my proposal.
The next step was pulling all of the supporting documents from my employer's employee manual, as well as the state proclamations in support of telework arrangements since I am a state employee. It was encouraging to see how pro-telework the documents were.
I carefully crafted my telework proposal to reflect the specifics of my position. My typical work week includes anywhere from 2 - 4 days spent out of the office teaching classes in remote locations across the state, or attending meetings in our state's capitol. In light of this, and because the only way for us to save money and absorb the salary decrease from the temporary layoff/furlough days was to have me move back to our primary house, I crafted a proposal for a maximum of 4 days a week of telecommuting. If I didn't live 2.5 hours away from the office, I probably would have proposed more like 2 - 3 days telecommuting.
In addition to the proposal itself (done very closely to Pat Katepoo's Work Options template), I submitted a packet of supporting documentation. One was the agency's telecommute regulation from the employee manual. Another critical document was a calendar of my prior month that I printed with the appointments and locations I traveled on each day. That supported the fact that I was mostly out of the office teaching and networking anyway.
A surprise ally arose in the form of my grant manager. She spent 15 years telecommuting while her children were young. I think her assistance in encouraging my boss to consider the arrangement was critical in its easy acceptance.
My boss hemmed and hawed for a couple of days, and then asked me to come to his office to discuss my proposal. His ominous tone had me concerned. When I sat down, he had a list of questions and highlights on my proposal. We went through each one, and I answered them with either clarifications or compromise for his position.
Once I redrafted the proposal to reflect those clarifications and compromises, it was submitted the same day to HR for filing. I'm still in awe that it was so easy. Of course, there is still a 4 month trial period to get through, so I will continue to update the blog with how it's all going. All in all, I will now cancel the need to pay $1500 a month rent, double utilities, separate groceries from my husband, and much of our ferry/gas costs from maintaining the two households. I will still pay full-time daycare (which was included in my proposal so the boss didn't think I'd be playing with my 2 year old instead of working), but the savings are still monumental! We can breath again, and all systems are moving forward to finish our remodel on the other house and continue walking through the Baby Steps to reach Debt Freedom!!
Friday, June 11, 2010
Last night I spent some time online doing an adjustment of our increasingly tight budget, and seeing where we could possibly shave off some costs. I researched selling my leased car (a poor decision I made before discovering Dave Ramsey) to drive an older vehicle, as well as some smaller changes that taken as a whole may help us save a couple hundred dollars per month. I didn't make any decisions, and honestly, didn't find too much that wouldn't potentially also cost us money (e.g. what if the car didn't sell?).
Today I came to work for just another Friday. Instead, I received an email stating that my position was going to be subject to a 10 day temporary layoff spread out over the next year. That is another way to say I'm being furloughed, and facing a 5% reduction in salary, effective immediately. My income will drop more than $250 per month. This does not come at a good time.
I took my current job knowing that it would be a financial strain. I accepted the job only once the salary was increased to reflect the higher cost of living in my new city to cover the new costs. Now, I am effectively below my previous salary, particularly in light of the additional costs associated with holding this position.
It's happening all over the state, and the country. I'm not in a unique situation, but it is still extremely scary and disappointing. It's very hard not to be going through the "what ifs" right now. "What if I had just stayed in my last job and not moved away from my home and husband?" "What if I had discovered the Total Money Makeover a year or two sooner?" "What if I'd never bought the stupid condo that I now rent out for an $800 per month loss?"
For now, I have a $1000 Baby Emergency Fund, and will continue to look at ways we can shrink our outgoing costs. Things are tight right now, but we have many luxuries. The hard part is the stress from all of this uncertainty. When will our home remodel be completed? Will the house sell? When will the hubby get a job closer to where I am living?
My focus is to be thankful that I have found Dave Ramsey, and have not gotten myself into too much further of a financial mess. I am also thankful that I still have a job! It's time to tighten the purse strings, and make some hard choices! With faith, optimism, and hard work, I trust that we will be taken care of.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I recently ordered the full set of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University CDs on eBay. The full set, in its snazzy DR case, was $26 with shipping. The sale price of each CD is generally $10 per CD, so this seemed like a great deal.
My job requires lots of in-state travel, with many drives that last from 2 – 4 hours at a time. Having these CDs to listen to is wonderful! My only concern is that I'm going through them too fast. Although I've already read the Financial Peace University book and filled in the workbook sheets, I think there is probably some merit to listening to the CDs one at a time. Ideally I would listen to the CD, and then read the accompanying chapter in the book and redo the worksheets. Maybe I will still do that.
What I've concluded after listening to the first 5 CDs this week is that I am ready to jumpstart our snowball. Things have slowed considerably due to our stretched 2-mortgage budget and the home renovations. I need to do something to generate a little additional income, and throw some snow.
My ideas so far: selling some baby gear that I was holding on to for our next (as yet unplanned!) baby; selling more clothes and jeans that I like but don't wear much; and selling our trailer. The last one is a little sad, since I don't anticipate being able to find another awesome trailer for the low price we purchased this one for. On the other hand, we've been too busy to use it for the last couple of months, with no end to that in sight. These ideas should generate close to $2500 profit. Enough to fully pay off our current snowball, and make a huge dent in the next one. That would leave us with one and a half credit cards, our HELOC, and the cars. I'm keeping student loans out of this part of Baby Step 2. To me, they're Baby Step 2(b). I need to focus on the consumer debt separately so I don't lose motivation or focus. The student loans are large, but should go down relatively quickly once the consumer debt is out of the way!
If you've read the books and done the work, I would still suggest finding a copy of Dave's lessons on CDs either through your local used book source, eBay, a friend, or your local library. Hearing the lessons out loud is great, and Dave is an entertaining speaker.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Today was great: another minimum payment dropped! Our snowball has taken effect, and the balance on that card dropped significantly enough to cut the required minimum payment nearly in half!
That success is definitely motivating me to keep a tighter rein on our budget. The recent months I've gotten somewhat lazy with tracking every penny that comes in or out. Although we are doing relatively well financially thanks to DR and our TMMO, I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know how much extra money is floating in our account each month. We have definitely not followed Dave's advice to tell every dollar where it needs to go.
The next couple of months are going to be really tight. As in, scary, "can we pay the bills and still eat well" tight due to the continued home renovations on house #1, the hubby's job search in my city, and a little summer work/pleasure travel. I can literally no longer afford to be so casual about our budget. For some reason, once I got off track a few months ago, I just haven't been able to get it all back together. I'm not sure what exactly I need to do, but something tells me it's going to involve pulling out a chunk of cash to pay the everyday bills/incidentals, and then letting our accounts sit dormant for an entire 2 week pay cycle.
It sounds ridiculous to be so disorganized when we're already almost a year into DR. I'm disappointed, but also realistic that sometimes life happens and you have to deal with the setbacks. Luckily the setbacks haven't caused us to revert back to our old ways of the hubby's spending hundreds per month on eating out, and my continually funding the economy through eBay purchases!
I had some lofty goals a couple of months ago when I first realized that we were off track in a bad way. Today I'm restructuring those goals into more manageable baby steps.
This week's goal: pull out the old handwritten calendar and re-enter our auto pay bills and transfers.
This weekend's goal: make sure all bills are current (the insurance/medical billing cycle has me very confused with some recent appointments we had with our son), and pay anything that is still outstanding.
Monday will begin our next pay cycle, so I am going to try to convince the husband to not use the debit card for an entire two weeks. I'm no angel there either, but his are the incessant $3 – $10 charges that drive me nuts! That should get us back on track for June….just shy of our 1 year anniversary of discovering DR and the TMMO!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Changing Minimum Payments
Last night I had a random surprise when I opened up an email from one of my credit cards. Apparently all of our snowballing has paid off….our minimum payment dropped $40 from one month to the next! How amazing is that?
Initially I was just going to continue the original payment on that account since I'd already set up the auto-payment through my bank. It occurred to me this morning that the additional $40 will have more of an impact if I redirect it to the card that is currently receiving the focus of the snowball. We're slowly but surely knocking that one out, despite the major slow down while we throw most of our extra cash into finishing up the house remodel to get the big house on the market.
Sometimes just when this whole debt-free journey feels like a marathon into eternity you get the small boost that keeps you motivated to keep going! Just what we needed right now as we burn the midnight oil with stressful home renovations, double mortgages, and the building nerves about getting our house up for sale.
Monday, May 3, 2010
When the Progress Slows
Recently we've had to take a few steps backwards in our Debt-Free Journey. We decided to make these changes in order to improve the quality of our lives. No, we haven't gone out to buy "things" or take lavish vacations. For the last 9 months, we have lived in separate cities and separate homes for work. Although my new job has been exceptionally rewarding, I won't go so far as to say that it has been worth the stress that it has put on my family. Our son is just 18 months old, but I can already see that he is affected by not having his father living in the same house. Consistency is important for little ones (and adults) to feel secure and happy.
My husband has begun a job search closer to where I now work. Since I have a higher earning potential, and his job is very flexible, this was the plan that works for us. We are focusing our funds and extra hours to finishing up the renovation of our home, with plans to get it on the market in the next couple of months. Part of me wants to be impatient and just take out another loan for all of the house repairs and upgrades so we can get out of it sooner. I know that a little bit of patience will really pay off in the long run, but patience is not at the top of my personal "virtues" list!
Given all of these expenditures, and the recent addition of rental payments for a new house, I'm once again feeling that almost-forgotten money stress! Progress on our debt snowball has stopped, and if anything, we're going to end up actually accruing a bit more debt to finish up the house projects on a shortened timeline.
I'm trying very hard to be patient and stay motivated. I remind myself daily that a few slip-ups, particularly ones that are reasoned out and necessary for our current situation, are not cause to throw the plan away. Instead, we are doing the best we can to keep within budget, and remaining proud of all of the progress we've made up to this point.
Once we sell the old house, our snowball will start back up with a vengeance. When I'm sad about our current lack of progress on the snowball, I open up my snowball calculator and play with the numbers when we can use an entire mortgage payment as a snowball! We aren't gazelle right now, but at least we're being mindful of our money and not just throwing it away like the old days!
Monday, April 26, 2010
Saving Money on Moving Costs
We've moved several times in the last couple of years. Our coming move is from a 1 bedroom condo into a 3 bedroom rental house. The plan is to live in the rental for a year or two until my husband gets a job in my city and we can sell our other house. Once those two things happen, our debt snowball will be a debt avalanche! We should be able to quickly pay off all of our consumer debts, bulk up our emergency fund, and start saving for a down payment.
But first we have to do the move…..
In the past, I've relied on friends and family to assist in moving. Now that we're in our early 30s, and I've moved way more than my fair share, it just doesn't seem right to rely on the charity of others. Moving is a terrible experience. In order to minimize the stress, hard labor, and time required, we've decided to hire movers.
How Can We Save Money on Our Move?
Participate in the move. My husband and I will both be moving boxes right alongside our hired movers. That will make the job go quicker.
Post an ad on Craigslist for labor. We moved me into our condo last summer, so we know that it takes under an hour to unload. Since we need to load the truck, drive to the new place, and get the big stuff unpacked, I am planning that it will take about 3 hours. We offered $40 cash guaranteed for up to 3 hours of assistance. If for some reason it takes longer, I'll pay $12/hour after that. Our ad had 15 responses within 2 hours of posting.
Reuse boxes. Packing supplies add up quickly. When we last moved, I was able to get boxes from friends. I purchased two of the large wardrobe boxes for moving my work clothes. All of those boxes are being reused for this move. If you don't have boxes, advertise on a local Freecycle, Craigslist, or ask around to your friends.
Consider plastic totes. The up-front cost of purchasing 22 gallon plastic lidded bins at Target or Home Depot on sale is barely more than the cost of purchasing a brand new cardboard box. Once you're done with the move, they can be used for various storage purposes in your new house (off season clothes, toys, sporting equipment, craft supplies, etc). I love bins! When I see the large, clear style on sale for under $5, I snap a couple up.
Don't buy bubble wrap. Save box space and wrap your breakables for free by using your towels, washcloths, pillow cases and sheets instead of bubble wrap. Sweaters, cotton t shirts and sweats also make excellent wrap for vases, in between picture frames, or around dishes.
Use your sheets. Protect your mattresses and couch cushions by slipping a fitted sheet over them when you move rather than buying the big plastic wrap. You have to move them anyway, and if a sheet gets a little dirty, it's much easier to toss that in the wash than have to clean your upholstery!
Rent a large enough truck. There is typically very little cost difference between the various sizes of rental trucks. Mileage will be the same regardless of the size of truck that you rent. Do not underestimate how much stuff you are moving. Multiple trips are always more expensive than upgrading to the next size truck and doing a single trip.
Clean out and sell while you pack. As I've been packing my belongings, I've found several things to list on Craigslist. I'm busy packing, but every once in a while I take a 10 minute break and list one of those items. I've made some extra cash that I can use to buy needed items for the new house, and lessened the amount of stuff I have to move!
Our move total should be around $150. We could save ourselves more than half of that if we did all of the hard labor ourselves, but honestly, the extra expense is beyond worth it if it makes our move faster and easier!