Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Christmas?

I've found a new vice., 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!