Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My perception of credit cards has changed...

Here's the plan:
  1. Sign-up for credit cards that offer generous frequent flier mile bonuses
  2. Use said cards to pay everyday expenses such as bills and gas (not new clothes, vacations, etc.)
  3. Pay balance in full each month so no interest accrues
  4. Reap rewards including free flights, rental cars, hotel rooms
  5. Go to http://travelhacking.org/meaganp-wants-you and sign-up for the Travel Hacking Cartel for a better explanation (and I'll get bonus miles for referring you)
Cody now has a Delta Gold Visa and I have a American Express Citi Mastercard for this purpose. I feel that we have proven ourselves responsible enough with our finances to have credit cards for one explicit purpose and not go insane with them. In fact, they stay neatly glued to their acceptance letters inside page protectors inside our budget binder. I'll update on our progress periodically. If all goes well, I'm hoping for a free flight by the end of summer 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like." - Nigel Marsh

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


We've met our goal! Woo Hoo! Back in September I set a goal for us to have $5k in our "Whatever Club" account (aka house fund) by the first of the year and we have accomplished it! As long as our circumstances remain the same, I feel like we can absolutely continue with this momentum. After the first of the year we plan to put the majority of my paycheck into this account every month. If that works out, this number will be growing by a thousand or more every month. Our new goal is double-digits by June 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday

My sister-in-law and I teamed up to brave the Black Friday crowds with much success. Old Navy advertised that they were giving away Kodak Sport digital cameras to the first 40 people in line. We sat up our chairs at 7:30 Thanksgiving night and got our free (after a $40.00 purchase, but that amount knocked out two gifts) cameras at 12:00 a.m. Its probably not the best camera but it is waterproof so I'm super excited about taking it to Dry Tortugas in May! We also went to two different WalMarts, Sears, Belk, Lowe's and Academy. I also went ahead and purchased all of the gift cards I was planning on buying for presents this year. So, as of today, I have the following left on my Christmas list: both my maternal grandparents, a picture frame for my paternal grandmother, a tote bag for my mother-in-law, a gift certificate for Cody's cousin, and possibly something small to add to my mother's gift. Then I'm done! And it isn't even December yet! To top it all off, I still have money in my Christmas envelope!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We're always going somewhere!

I booked our anniversary trip to the beautiful Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville a few days ago. Since our anniversary falls on a Tuesday, we're going on New Year's Eve instead! Since that's a holiday, the prices were a little higher than usual but I went ahead and booked anyway. The next morning I received an email from Opryland (always sign up for emails!) offering specially discounted holiday rates which were roughly $40.00 cheaper than what I had paid the previous night. So, I called back and, after speaking to several individuals, was able to get our rate adjusted. I'm so excited for this mini-vacation with my wonderful husband!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm back!

So, it has been almost a month and a half since my last post. Things have been crazy around here. And by crazy I mean major life changing decisions, impossible school assignment deadlines, overtime at work, etc. First, I feel I need to give an update on our progress. We are on track for our goal of having $5k in savings by the end of the year. I have an envelope with $700 allotted for Christmas shopping whenever I get around to starting that. We've purchased $200 worth of Shell giftcards in preparation for our road trip to Dry Tortugas in May. Our emergency/secondary savings account has fluctuated between $1350 and $1500 (this is about to become a higher priority after Christmas). I've also saved around $300 for our anniversary trip to the Opryland Hotel in Nashville on New Year's Eve. HOWEVER, there have been two major bumps:

1. This past weekend, Cody talked me into getting an iPad 2. Of course, we paid cash and it is all ours and so, so much fun. BUT I am feeling really guilty about this and probably will continue to feel guilty for several weeks. Especially since my mother-in-law told us she had already bought one for our Christmas present. Darn.

2. This is a doosey. This is the real reason I haven't posted in a month... I've decided to go to law school.

Bump #2 has both positives and negatives. So, here is a list:

  • no four months of unemployment for me while I student teach
  • potential of higher pay in the future and to essentially work for myself
  • my current boss has offered me a full-time position, so more income immediately
  • I get to go to school for at least three more years!!!
  • Cody and I will easily be able to pay for my tuition with cash (which is half of what I'm currently paying for graduate school at UAB)
  • if I change my mind, I can pick up with my master's and being teaching
  • no possibility of my TEACH grant being repaid = $6500 of student loan debt for a master's degree I did not complete
  • Three payments of approximately $1800 per year for tuition
  • Driving 60 miles one way to Birmingham once a week for the next several years. Poor Civic.
So, we will see how this works out. I'm really excited and feel like this is a huge opportunity for me. Cody was immediately supportive when I discussed this idea with him and his opinion was my main concern. I am finishing out my class at UAB this semester. In January, I plan to reevaluate our budget so that my entire check goes into our house savings. Within three or four years, we could still be paying CASH for our first home! There will be many posts on this big change in the future!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Read This Article!

* Disclaimer: I am trained as a critical writer. This might not be entertaining. Go read the article!*

A flip through almost any current magazine issue, from Glamour to National Geographic, reveals at least one article that is somehow related to the recent economic slump. In this week's issue of Time, Rana Foroohar's article "The Truth About the Poverty Crisis" presents startling statistics about a large portion of Americans' financial situations. This article resonated with me because it referenced the current problems and mindsets that have caused me to flee from the contemporary American notions wealth and money.

Foroohar's assertion that the myth of the American dream has been replaced with a reality of "downward mobility," the idea that it is now difficult for Americans to to work their way up to an economic class higher than the one in which they were born, is just one of the many harsh realities of the era in which we live. Several of the statistics she references are shocking, even for a disheartened skeptic such as myself: "more than fifteen percent of Americans live below the poverty line," "the average real weekly earnings of a typical blue collar worker are lower today than in 1964," there are more poor people in America now than any time in the last fifty-two years. I find it difficult to believe that with such statistics abounding in the media, I can count on one hand the number of individuals or families I know personally who have made decisions similar to mine and Cody's to not participate in the conventions of today's popular economic lifestyle. Why do so few others harbor the same feelings of disgust? Foroohar quotes Isabell Sawhill: "We have a belief system and an idea about ourselves that don't always align well with the facts." I feel Sawhill's statement is perhaps the most poignant of our time.

Yet another ominous warning in this article is Foroohar's statement that the Baby Boomers and the Boomerang Generation (mine) will ultimately battle for "dwindling government benefits" which cannot support Social Security for the elderly and training and education for the younger. I feel that we are becoming  increasingly reliant on a system that is increasingly less equipped to support even itself.

I share this article not as doomsday evidence, but as yet another signal that things must change. Even though we are bombarded with claims such as Foroohar's, individuals generally do little to to revise their own concepts of money, wealth, poverty, and to some extent, benefits and retirement. All of our current ideas about these essential components of our existence equate to a "fiction," as Foroohar calls it, that is "becoming even more difficult to sustain."

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Today, I payed off our only loan (other than my student loans)! Whooo Hoooo!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Christmas?

I've found a new vice. Pinterest.com, a website designed to function like a virtual pinboard, is a cornucopia of great ideas for crafts, travel, style, home improvement, etc. I've never felt more creative! Looking through their DIY section, I've collected tons of great ideas for Christmas gifts. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I might like to attempt a homemade Christmas. It would take a fair amount of time and extensive planning. I might come out saving a little money but buying supplies will still be costly. Another option is to pair a small purchsed gift with another that I have created myself. In the next few weeks I'm going to see if I can collect one idea for a do-it-yourself present for each of my family members. If I can, this might be a possibility.

Regardless, Pinterest is a great place to find ideas for repurposing items you already own, decorating on the cheap, and using clothing items you already own to create new styles (something I need to work on severly). Also, there are a zillion creative recipes (think buttercream birthday cake truffles)!

Vacation Savings Tip

John Tesh gets on my nerves. Horribly. As much as I hate to admit it, he occasionally has a good idea. Cody heard this at work yesterday while listening to the Tesh's radio show and I actually think its a great way to save for vacations.

Every time you have an extra $25 or $50 dollars, buy a prepaid gas card from Shell, BP, or another nationally recognized gas station. Place these in an envelope. When vacation time comes around, your gas expenses are already paid for. Plus, you don't wind up splurging all the cash you've saved on restaurants and souvenirs then suddenly realize you don't have money set aside for the gas to get home. Cody and I are actually going to add this expense to our budget for our next trip to Dry Tortugas in the spring. His parents have decided they want to go with us and will be paying to rent a van to drive the sixteen hours to Key West. Since we will have the majority of the gas expenses already paid for, the trip is going to be super cheap! We're already excited!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dangerous Territory

Yesterday, I successfully managed to veer away from an opportunity that I honestly feel had the potential to derail all our plans. As I have mentioned before, my mother works in a bank. While we don't share the same opinions about finances, we usually have a pretty open dialogue about money matters because of her occupation and my sometimes obnoxious attitude about such things. Yesterday, she asked for a favor. Her boss was needing referrals and invited Cody and me to come in for a mortgage advising session. The era of low rates is nigh! They can double your down payment! There is no telling how much you could get! Think of the opportunities! Stop right there.

While I appreciated being considered "adult" enough to apply for a mortgage, I honestly perceived this as a trap. And a very dangerous one at that. I am constantly working to reassure myself and my husband that we are content in our home, that we don't need new stuff, that our hard work will reap great rewards in the years to come. If we sat there and listened as they offered us the possibility of a three bedroom home for a modest $500 monthly payment (for thirty years, nonetheless), could we resist the temptation? Such opportunities are the ones that it seems everyone is taking, and aren't our intentions blatantly opposite of everyone else's? Needless to say, I politely refused.

On a humorous note, this afternoon my car wouldn't crank. I immediately had flashbacks of the day I burnt up by engine. However, it was only a dead battery caused by extreme Alabama heat and a collection of battery acid around the cable. Whew! Now something like that would have most definitely derailed our plans!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to Reality

I returned from my epic adventure Sunday night and am just now getting things back in order. Glacier National Park was absolutely breathtaking, along with all the other places I saw on the way. That was an excellent way to spend $390! I went super cheap on souvenirs (postcards and magnets for my fridge collection) and did my best to order off the value menu or eat food that I had carried with me. Grand total for my spending money on the trip was right over $200. I feel like roughly $600 for an eleven day vacation including ten states, two national monuments, two national parks, and several new friends was a heck of a deal! Cody did a great job taking care of things while I was away. However, that was probably my first and last long trip without him. I missed my husband terribly, especially on the three day van ride back home.

So far, we are keeping well within our new budget. We will be paying cash for a new set of tires next week and will have our only loan paid off by the end of August. The financial aid fiasco is still playing out. Sadly, I wound up having to take out another small student loan. On the bright side, my recent advisng appointment revealed that, yes, I will in fact be graduating in the Spring. The class I am taking this semester is the last one ever! Well...for this degree anyways.

I've started working at a lawyer's office part-time-ish. I am going to attempt to substitute a little this semester also, as well as work at my job in retail occasionally (plus complete fifty observation hours for my class, yeah right). These nice paychecks are going to be difficult to give up after Christmas when I am student teaching for four months! But by then we will have plenty put back to provide gas and grocery money while I am virtually unemployed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


After getting all excited about our new budget over the weekend, yesterday was filled with discouragement. I received an email from UAB stating that the first half of my tuition is due by August 5th, about two weeks earlier than usual. This spurred an investigation of my online university account balance and my realization that my usual TEACH grant ($2000 a semester of federal aid that does not have to be repaid as long as I teach for four out of eight years after my graduation) had not yet been posted. Long story short, after several tense phone calls I realized that I forgot to complete my FAFSA for this coming academic year and will not be able to receive my funds before the deadline Friday. Big whoops. Unfortunately, I will have to pay $862 out of pocket. Even though I will eventually be completely reimbursed, it sickens me to have to put such a dent in our savings, even if it is only momentarily. Hopefully, there will be no more glitches in this aspects of our finances and things will be back in order shortly. It will be an enormous relief when I no longer have to stay in constant contact with UAB's financial aid department.

After a morning of filling out online forms and phone calls to the federal aid hotline, my mother and I had a slight disagreement when she suggested that I simply take out more student loans so that we do not have to take any money out of our savings to fix this problem (a post dedicated to my opinion on student loans is coming soon). Of course, I shot down this suggestion, in retrospect a little too harshly, and we began to discuss Cody's and my decision to steer away from all types of debt.

My mother works at a bank and encourages us to take advantage of low interest rates as soon as we are able to. She has also encouraged me to use student loans to pay for my educational expenses, and still frequently does. I think that she is concerned that our goals are impractical and totally unattainable, so she constantly remains me to be open-minded about credit and more "realistic." I find it difficult to explain to her why we want to be different and struggle wit her almost complete refusal to congratulate us for attempting to be responsible, something I feel we deserve. However, my conflict with my mother over finances is representative of the general attitude towards the alternative to living the type American lifestyle, living without debt. I know that many people will not understand why we are making our circumstances slightly more difficult than necessary and will not recognize the rewards in store for us in the future. If we are going to be successful in setting up for ourselves a debt free lifestyle, we must learn to counter others' inquisitions, doubts, and pessimism with resolve, hope, and informed decisions.

By the way, this is probably the only issue my mother and I disagree on and recent circumstances have instilled in each of us a resilient opinion about the proper handling of ones' family's finances. In short, I love my mother (and my Dad)!

Thursday, I am off to Montana for ten days. I am entrusting Cody to pay three bills and make two trips to the bank all by himself while I am gone. This is definitely a first! I completely trust that he will be able to keep it together. I will be striving to spend the least amount of money possible as I journey across the country!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Budget Update

Today, I finished our budget for the next five months, printed it on highly obvious neon paper, and posted it on my desk. I am actually really excited about the possibilities this plan has! Here are a few of the goals that I have easily included in our budget for the remainder of 2011.
  • Almost doubling our savings account (an increase of over $2000)
  • A small increase in our emergency bill paying account
  • In September, paying off the loan used to purchase a motor for my car
  • Purchasing a new set of tires for Cody's truck by the end of August ($700)
  • Securing $640 by the end of November for Christmas shopping
  • A $330 allowance for a beach trip with my parents in September
  • Reserving a trip for our anniversary (in early January) with cash
  • Making several extra payments on our small credit card
Please remember that finances are relative to individual situations. $5000 in savings and an almost $2000 emergency fund at twenty-two/ twenty-three years old is a huge deal to us! We have already learned our lesson about not having money set aside for unforeseen expenses when my car broke down. If we stick to this budget, we will not have to be in that situation and resort to using credit again. I'm looking forward to seeing how close we can come to our goals. Looking ahead, I am already thinking about some goals for the first half of 2012: $8000 in savings, a Dry Tortugas vacation fund, increasing our emergency bill account even more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Dreaded Budget

As much as I plan our finances and strategize about how and where we spend our money, I have never really sat down and written out a monthly budget. I follow several debt-free blogs and I am constantly reading articles on the subject. The first thing on everyone's to-do list is the budget. Savers everywhere herald the virtues of the budget. The first thing you must do if you are ever going to have a successful financial future- budget. But honestly, I've been a little scared to put our spending and saving habits under the microscope. What if I'm not doing as well as I think? What if there really isn't enough to go around, we just happen to get lucky each month?

Well today, out of pure boredom, I finally sucked it up and broke out the calculator. Cody and I had discussed a couple of days ago the desire to reach a specific savings goal by the end of the year, so I thought I would crunch some numbers to see if attaining that amount would be possible. I am so glad I took the time to do this! Not only did I realize we have a lot more uncategorized money each month than I thought we did, I also found that we might even be able to exceed that goal by December!

We already have a pretty specific schedule of weekly payments so I first included these for each week remaining in 2011. I also calculated in extra money for a possible trip to the beach with my parents in September, the payoff of the loan we still have from my motor replacement, the purchase of a new set of tires for Cody's truck, a Christmas fund (I learned the hard way last year that buying Christmas presents for two branches of family takes some advanced planning), and a significant increase to our "Whatever Club" savings account.

I scribbled all these calculations down on a notepad while at work. First thing in the morning, I'm going to type up our new budget and post it somewhere Cody and I can see it every day. I want to strive to see how closely we can follow it for the next five months. If we stick to it, the results are going to be great! I should have tried out this newfangled budget idea years ago!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My #1 Reason

During the past week or so, I have spent a lot of time with my niece and nephew. Although Cody and I are nowhere close to being ready to start our family (We would, of course, be excited if we accidentally stumbled into parenthood, no matter how it changed our plans. That's part of being married), I can't help but think about my future as a mother when I'm holding a precious little baby. The number one reason we are living and planning the way we are now is so we can set up the most stable foundation possible for our family in the future. For me, this means organizing our circumstances so that one day I will be able to stay at home with our child(ren). My parents chose to make financial sacrifices so that my mother could be a stay-at-home mom to me. Now that I am an adult, I realize how that sacrifice was the greatest gift they could have given me. I want to do whatever I can now to facilitate being able to cease working when we decide to have a baby. In a perfectly planned, no curves in the road world, this is how things would go: 1) In the next year or so I will begin working as a teacher. The majority of my paycheck each month would go directly into a savings account designated for the purchase of a house. 2) Within four years, Cody and I will have enough cash in savings to buy an older, modest home without a mortgage and without completely draining our savings 3) Without any monthly expense designated to rent or a house payment, I would be able to discontinue working 4) After our child(ren) are old enough to begin school, I would hopefully begin teaching again , subsequently saving my salary for a future home, more property, retirement, new vehicles, etc.

Ok, that is the first time I have put those plans in writing although I have been thinking about them for quite awhile. Hopefully, seeing this periodically will encourage me to keep us on track and remind me of our long term goals.  I just turned twenty-two. With all of this taking place in the next  four to five years, I have a lot to do before I am twenty-six!

Now, let's see how all that works out...

Travelling on the Cheap

Having just returned from a totally free stay at a beautiful beach house in Florida (thanks cousin-in-law's uncle!), I have decided to post about travelling while living in what most of America would consider borderline poverty. Cody and I both love to travel but our reasons for doing so are quite different. Cody likes to relax by the ocean, any ocean, and eat massive amounts of seafood. I, on the other hand, simply love to go. I love the spontaneity of a quick trip as well as the anticipation of planning a lengthy adventure. Luckily, we have been able to take quite a few vacations since we have been married and I now feel comfortable listing amateur travel agent as one of my qualifications. For this post, I am first going to list the major trips we have taken with some of the tips and tricks we learned from each of them.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada- This trip resulted from my first experience with Travelocity.com, now one of my best friends. I decided about two weeks before spring break that I wanted to take a big trip. Cody surprisingly agreed and we booked our first trip with just the two of us. UAB's spring break is usually a few weeks before the rest of the country's so we were really travelling during the off season, early March. We flew out of Atlanta, about a two hour drive from our hometown, and stayed in the Luxor. Our package total was less than $800 for three nights. We had a blast. The biggest factor in making this a cheap trip...neither of us was twenty-one!
  • 7 Day Carnival Cruise from Puerto Rico- Cody and I had the smallest, cheapest wedding possible without actually eloping, which would have been my preference. In exchange for that, both of our parents contributed considerably to our honeymoon. Because of our cheap wedding, my parents offered to purchase our cruise tickets. In exchange for not being required to host a rehearsal dinner, Cody's parents purchased our flights from Atlanta to our departure port in Puerto Rico. Although we spent quite a lot aboard the ship and on the islands (all cash, nevertheless), there were a couple of things we quickly realized were strategic money-making machines on the funship. 1) Do not consume alcohol on the ship. Buy it in the ports, hide it in your beach bag, and save 60% 2) While a catamaran ride and swimming with the turtles might have been a blast, we experienced breathtaking beaches by asking our taxi driver to take us to his favorite spot. Also, find a couple that looks similar to yourselves and ride with them. The more people on the taxi, the cheaper it is per person 3) A bag of M&Ms is $4, bring as many snacks as possible
  • Cancun, Mexico- Similar to our Vegas vacation, this trip was hastily planned. We booked it only about three weeks before we left. This was our first all-inclusive vacation and most likely will not be our last. Although it was very expensive (mid-June= high prices= $1600 for three nights), we literally spent less than a hundred dollars after the trip was purchased. Again, this was paid for with cash, so no feelings of guilt for making payments on it six months later. It was really nice not to have to worry about what we were spending when going out to dinner or ordering drinks. We flew out of Atlanta again and stayed at the Now Sapphire. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. We would love to return one day, just in the fall or winter in order to get a little better deal. The only downside, tropical storm Alex kept the sun at bay the entire four days. You know a beach resort is nice when someone still has a good time during a tropical storm!
  • Key West, Florida & Dry Tortugas National Park- This is our most recent big adventure and by far our favorite. This is also the pride and joy of my travel agent skills so far. Dry Tortugas NP is one of the most remote National Parks in the country. No one we know had ever heard of it, much less been there. I saw picture of the park on the NPS website one day and decided to start planning a trip there. A few months later we were on our way. We flew from Birmingham, Alabama to Key West and stayed at a really nice bed and breakfast for two nights before and one night after camping on the island. Fortunately for us, this cute little home was also situated right in front of an annual drag queen pageant held in a barricaded block of Duval Street. Cody was thrilled. Needless to say, we will not be going to Key West again. On the morning of our third day, we boarded a ferry to the park. We camped for three nights. No water, no electricity, no showers, no flushing toilets, and no communication with the outside world. This was one of the most amazing shared-experiences in our relationship so far. Everyone should take time to visit this park. We began planning our next visit as soon as we arrive on the island. We plan to visit Dry Tortugas again next summer, but this time we will drive to cut cost and transport camping gear more easily. We also have a few couples in mind that we are trying to persuade to come with us. There were so many components to this trip it is difficult to estimate its actual cost; most likely, it was upwards of $1800 (completely paid for, not financed in any way, of course). However, most of that was spent on flights to Key West and staying at the B&B, things we don't plan to do next year. The ferry fare to the park was $150 each and it was a mere $8 a night to camp. Whatever the cost, think: complete seclusion, fantastic snorkeling, a Civil War era fort to explore, beaches that for sixteen hours a day you share with literally ten other people, no annoying cell-phones, and really interesting people constantly going in and out on their snazzy private yachts. Completely amazing!
  • Various Trips to Gulf Shores, Alabama- We live within about five hours of Alabama's gulf coast, making annual beach trips affordable and easy to plan. In the past four years, we have made at least one, if not several, trips to Gulf Shores each year. We have three couples who are our go-to beach buddies. We have a favorite beach rental company, Gulf Sands Rentals, and a favorite specific condo that we pay around $140 a night for during the summer and right under a $100 towards the end of summer and into fall. Split three ways, that is a super affordable stay. Plus, this particular unit has a fully equipped kitchen so we save a good bit of money cooking breakfast and lunch and not going out to eat. One of our favorite trips was at the very beginning of October 2010 when the rates were super low. The weather was great, water was still warm, and we didn't have to wait forever to eat at our favorite restaurant, The Original Oyster House.
Another way I personally have been able to squeeze a little extra travel into my very modest personal budget is through UAB. The student recreation center at my college has an outdoor pursuits group that makes several trips each month. These vary from day-hikes at destinations around Alabama to international backpacking adventures. Last fall, I went on a beautiful, snowy, four day trip to Mt. Rogers, Virginia for $80. Not bad for transportation and equipment rental (I love these types of camping/ backpacking adventures but I don't find the time to go on them enough to validate buying all that outrageously expensive stuff). In about two weeks, I am going on another trip with this same organization. For $390, I am going on a cross-country trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. The itinerary includes visits to the St. Louis Arch, Badlands National Park, and Mount Rushmore. I couldn't be more excited! Cody is not as enthusiastic about these types of trips so I am very thankful he doesn't mind me taking this opportunity to see a huge chunk of our country on my own. My final frugal travel tip: Camping is always much, much cheaper. No matter what our financial situation, I know that we will always be able to afford some sort of get-away because we are both comfortable in a tent.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bargain Shopping

Yesterday, my mother and I had a girls' day of shopping and eating in Birmingham. We went to the new Patton Creek Outlet Mall in Leeds, Alabama. This might just be my new favorite place to shop. There are tons of high-end stores but, since it is an outlet center, the atmosphere is much more conducive to bargain shopping. We were treated to free Ghirardelli chocolate at their store just for visiting! All of the clearance was an additional 40% off at Banana Republic. Normally I would never even consider going in that particular store, but I wound up finding two tops and a belt for $25! At Talbots, the clearance was 50% off. I controlled myself and only purchased one blouse for $15. All in all, I spent an entire day shopping with my mother and only spent around $50!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Patience and Independence

Over the holiday weekend, Cody and I celebrated our freedom and a cheap new dryer. About mid-April, the dryer in our house stopped working for some reason or another and, since we had agreed with our landlord that we would replace any appliances with our own, we began to search for a super-good deal on a new one. I am pretty certain that I am the most indecisive person in the world. After going a week without doing laundry, I reluctantly spent $14 on a really nifty retractable clothes line (interestingly, with the household of the Queen of England's seal of approval). So, for almost three months, I line dried all our laundry. This worked really well since Alabama has been in a relative drought for the past several months. However, sudden summer showers in the last few weeks put me so far behind on my clothes washing that Cody insisted I go buy a dryer. I looked at Lowe's and Sear's and found nothing under $300 (free financing though!! Um, no, thank you). Even a local used appliance store offered nothing less than about $150, and that particular dryer was beige had had a very 1980-ish design around the knobs. So, with the help of my mother, I searched through the newspaper classifieds for a few days and, what do you know, a nice elderly couple was wanting to get rid of a perfectly good, if slightly aged, dryer for a whooping $65! I quickly loaded that baby up and now have every article of clothing in my house washed and dried to perfection...well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration.

While I could have whipped over to my local appliance center the day my old dryer went out and financed a new, state-of-the-art, art-deco inspired, can-dry-fifteen-pairs-of-jeans-at-once dryer, I instead patiently weighed my options and improvised until I found an excellent deal. Even if this used dryer only lasts a few years, it will be well worth the amount I paid for it. However, I do plan on continuing to use my clothes line on sunny days. Not only do I love the crispness of the clothes, it uses no energy and forces me to get moving a little while I'm doing my housework.

On a humorous note...Yesterday, as we were recovering from our 4th of July BBQ lunch and $10 budget firework show, I happened to see a commercial for a certain high-end mattress brand. This particular company was so excited to offer me financing for four, yes FOUR, years for the very first time. How could anyone fall asleep at night knowing the mattress on which they lay would not technically be theirs for another four years? If you didn't pay, would someone come repossess your mattress at night?

Friday, July 1, 2011


I transitioned into an adult during one of the most financially unstable periods in the last century. In addition to this, I personally witnessed the financial turmoil my parents endured after my father had a near-fatal motorcycle accident mere months after my wedding. This, in addition to specific conversations and experiences I have had in the past two or three years, has instilled in me a desire to make smart decision for myself and my family.
About six months after my marriage, one of my English professors led a discussion with my small class of graduate students that developed in part from a tangent about the French Revolution (the class was entitled “Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture”). She told us about an experience she had immediately after the birth of her first child. Suddenly, the realization of her responsibility and ensuing paranoia caused her to stockpile powered milk and dried beans in her basement for fear that some disaster or another might strip her of her ability to care for her family. Being an extremely intelligent woman (and fairly normal, for someone with a Ph.D in English, anyways), she quickly snapped out of her frenzy and years later told us this story as a comical anecdote to demonstrate the heightened sense of alarm society in general felt during the eighteenth century. After we laughed about her story, she shared with us her genuine belief that patterns of history often repeat and that things were bound to turn sour for us sooner or later. This is a woman who has studied the writings of the eighteenth century for the majority of her adult life, a century that witnessed the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Enlightenment. If there were ever two periods in history to be compared for their sense of urgency, instability, and rapid change, the time in which we currently live and the eighteenth century would be the ones.

As I thought about Dr. G collecting hoards of beans in her basement over the following weeks, I realized she was experiencing the same sort of concern as a new mother as I was experiencing as a new wife. I respected, and still respect, this woman’s intelligence and practicality. What we discussed during that class had stuck a nerve. How would I save this new, precious, two-person family I had created with my husband if something terrible happened? What should I be doing now to ensure that our future will be secure, happy, and uncomplicated? Do I want to depend on others to ensure that happiness, or do I want to take matters into my own hands?

Cody and I had already discussed our intentions to be as debt-free as possible and had taken measures before our marriage to make certain we would be able to stay afloat on our own. However, an event right before Christmas in 2010 cemented my opinion about my society’s accepted financial conventions. After several years of commuting me to college, my Honda blew an engine. Although Cody and I had enough in savings to cover the cost for a replacement, we did not feel comfortable draining our accounts right before the holidays. We reluctantly decided to get a loan for the amount of the new motor with every intention to pay it off as soon as possible. I headed to our local credit union to speak to a loan officer about our options. I knew that I did not have sufficient credit history to acquire the loan myself, but I wanted to gather some numbers to take home and discuss with Cody before we decided what to do. After looking over my application, the woman behind the desk immediately dismissed the option of taking out a loan in my name, as I expected. She then informed me that Cody “just barely” qualified to get the loan himself. I was annoyed, but still not too surprised. Before I tell the next part of this eye-opening story, let me explain that since I live in a relatively small town, it is usual for everyone to know everyone else’s business. This woman personally knew most of my in-laws, along with their financial history, and had assisted my husband in every financial decision he had made thus far. She then took it upon herself to give me a free financial counseling session. Not only did she suggest that I take out an amount almost double what I needed as well as attempt to get approved for payments spread out over five years, she also told me that I should open several store accounts and even get myself a credit card so that I could go buy a new car in a couple of years. According to her, this was just the normal chain of events for building enough credit to acquire a mortgage for a $150,000 to $200,000 home, which she seemed certain I would desire one day.

I thanked her for her help and left. As I walked through the parking lot, I became more and more angry at the advice I had been given. It was absurd. I was just told by someone whose career it was to assist people in making important financial decisions that I should get into debt so that I could subsequently get into more debt later in life. Why wasn’t I congratulated for be a twenty-one year old American college student who did not have any credit card debt? Why wasn’t I praised for paying off prior debts quickly? Why wasn’t I receiving support for my and my husband’s decision to postpone shackling ourselves with a house payment or expensive car loans until we were certain we could afford them? If the advice I was given represented the financial blueprint most Americans go by, no wonder everything is in a mess.           

All of these experiences have been compiled by my husband and me and have helped us create a general understanding of the way we intend to conduct ourselves and our family. We desire to live our lives fully and vividly, without feeling as if we have missed anything but also without spending ourselves into an inescapable hole. Here are our goals:

1. To use as little credit as possible. What we are required to use will be immediately paid off.

2. To purchase a home at some point in the future without a mortgage.

3. To value time over money.

4. To prepare for our future and our retirement by making smart choices today and not depending on the government or our particular jobs.

5. To withstand the social pressures to live a lifestyle we will not be able to afford.

Neither of us have chosen professions that will make us wealthy, but that does not mean that we will no be able to afford to live the American Dream, whatever that might be. We will strategically live our lives so that we can afford to do, and go, and see just as much as anyone else but without the guilt of not actually paying for anything. We both value peace of mind much more than a four bedroom home and a new SUV.

Motivations and Intentions

I am beginning this blog for several reasons. Until now I have cast a skeptical eye towards blogs, but as I developed the idea for this one I began to realize that the motivation bloggers have for posting their thoughts in public is just as much for their own pleasure as for the their belief that others might be curious about their lives. This blog is for me. If someone else enjoys it or learns from it, that will just be a bonus.
            My first motivation for writing this blog is just that, writing. Although I would much prefer academic writing (I am no novelist), I truly miss putting my thoughts into writing. As I write, I hope to reveal to myself a glimpse of my intentions for the way I live and conduct my family life.
            Secondly, I intend for this blog to serve as a way to organize my thoughts, plans, and ideas in a manner similar to a diary, but focused on a very specific subject. I am constantly collecting ideas, hearing anecdotes, and reading information that I want to remember. These tidbits are often lost in the jumble of daily life. Hopefully, this blog will be a way to record and remember such things.
            My final motivation for beginning this project is the decision my husband and I have made to live our married life as financially responsible and goal oriented adults. In my background, I will explain why such an endeavor might require strategic planning and documentation. I desire to have a type of scrapbook of our journey and the steps we take to acquire the type of lifestyle we have decided to seek. This final motivation may not be clear until this blog has been maintained for a very long period of time.

About Me

           There is nothing exceptional about myself or my circumstances. I live in a small town in northeast Alabama with my husband, our cats, and our dog. I reside in the same town in which I went to high school and where the majority of my and my husband’s family lives. I have no intentions of leaving.  My husband, Cody, and I met during high school and have been best friends for almost five years now. We have been married for about a year and a half.
            I have my B.A. in English  and will have my masters degree in Secondary Education and Language Arts in a little less than a year. I have a passion for reading and credit the majority of my knowledge not to my formal education but to my insatiable appetite for books. I am interested not only in reading and writing, as my undergraduate degree might suggest, but also in history and all the political, religious, cultural, and geographic subtopics that it encompasses. Within my studies of literature, I focus primarily on medieval and eighteenth century British texts. I plan to teach high school English and possibly go on to teach college-level literature courses as some point. As a teacher, I hope to relate to my students that reading is the only way for them to acquire the information they need to become successful adults. Currently, I work as a substitute teacher, part-time nanny to two precious boys, and as a retail sales associate. Outside of academia, my interests are traveling, gardening, cooking, baking, various crafts, and almost any outdoor activity.
            Cody chose not to pursues a college education, a decision which afforded us the opportunity to marry at an arguably young age and for him to support me as I completed, and continue to complete, my education. He works at a local warehousing company, a job he has worked at in some capacity since he was fifteen. We are very blessed that the primary bread-winner of our little family has stable and secure employment that he also enjoys. Cody is the most laidback man I have ever met and I’m guessing that his main interest in life is trying to keep up with his crazy wife! Cody and I share an interest in traveling and outdoor activities like gardening. He reads an occasional book and loves Alabama Crimson Tide football, Halo, men’s softball, and poker, in that order. I love him dearly!
            Cody and I live within minutes of both sets of our parents and are extremely close to our families. We have a nephew, three, and a new niece, born in March 2011, who we think are vastly superior to any other children in the world.