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Alive and Well

February 21st, 2010 at 10:59 am

It has been a long time since I have written; almost a year. I have still been struggling with my finances but my head is above the water. The housing market has been picking up the last few weeks and I'm in hopes that things are changing for the better. I got more loan applications this February than I have gotten since 2005. This may be due to the tightened mortgage market and the role banks are having. As a mortgage company I think we have more products and are more flexible with score requirements as low as 620. There are many first time homebuyer incentives out there and the prices for a home are low here. I think the thing that is holding some people back is job stability.

After my blog in April, 2009, many things happened. My mother-in-law became ill and we took her in only to find out she was dying of cancer. It was a very difficult time for all of us and she died in our home after 24 days of arriving.

After that my mother moved to Florida leaving her long time partner here. He had a stroke and I have been caring for his needs for months now and he will be returning home tomorrow in a wheelchair. There are many things he still can not do as he doesn't walk well and his left arm is still paralized; so he will need my help with laundry, groceries, housework, cooking and etc. I've signed up for some home health services to help out as well but they will not be coming until later next week, I also looked into a meals delivery program for the elderly so some of his meals will be delivered. I'm hoping things will improve quickly as I really need my life back (he has no family so I'm it).

My daughter is due for a baby soon and I will going to spend some time with her, the new baby and my 3 year old grandchild. I'm hoping when this is all done I can then focus on me.

I've been marketing my business by doing Realtor presentations, flyers, emails, letters to past customers and etc. I think maybe this year things will be better and I can finally get back on my feet.

Things have not really changed with my husband, he still can't keep his debit card in his pocket and he spends way too much money so we separated finances in the fall of last year. I'm hoping that now that he doesn't have access to my money he will learn how to budget. Last I knew he has already had a few overdrafts (very costly).

So life goes on and I will be filing my taxes soon and paying the last of my interest and penalties for cashing in my IRA last year to pay the IRS for my debt settlement. I'm hoping this will be the end of it and I can put this behind me.

I have a friend that came to me last fall with $85,000 in credit cards; we sat down and did a plan and she was able to settle all the cards and with her tax implications; she got out for about $45,000. She too used her retirement money to get rid of the debt. She had no idea what I've been through, she just knows I know a lot about cleaning up debt and your credit report. I'd like to teach some classes on this subject, but instead I have been doing it on an individual basis with prospective mortgage clients.

Hope all is well with the friends I have met here and best wishes.


April 20th, 2009 at 10:35 am

Well it has been two years since I have been able to afford to fly anywhere. The winds are apparently in my favor right now. I heard from my sister who has a client that has offered the use of her condo and car for my DH and myself, all free and on the beach, so we are off on vacation on Thursday for nine days. How great is that? A free condo overlooking the beach and a car. We are so excited, it has been a long time since we have been able to go away and with this gift of generosity we can afford to go. Our airline tickets were $514 and because we have a full kitchen and barbeque grill at the condo, we can cook in and lay by the pool. I bought two books to read while we are there.

Regarding the mortgage business, things are picking up and I think I can see some recovery. With the new $8000 tax credit to first time homebuyers (can't have owned a home in the last three years), I'm expecting to see more purchase activity. This could be a good time to turn our finances around.

My DH is refinancing our home and dropped our rate from 6.50% to 5.25% and he consolidated some various debts he had left over, thereby reducing our monthly debts to give us some breathing room. We have done numerous improvements to the home and it appraised well. We are now working on the yard and doing some pretty extensive landscaping. However, having a contractor husband has it's faults, they work all day long in the business and don't move too fast at home. I'm sure by summer end we will have things looking nice outside.

Yesterday, I staked off my gardens for the summer. I've got two large plots, one for regular crops of corn, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, potato's, radishes, carrots, beets and etc. The second plot will be for my vine crops; cucumbers, squash, summer squash, zucchini, pumpkins and in the far corner of the plot I'm putting in 4-5 blueberry bushes. This will add to the yard appeal and save money in our monthly food budget. I will can and freeze veggies throughout the summer.

Think summer; I'm so glad the snow is gone.

Tax Time

March 11th, 2009 at 06:13 am

So I finally go to the accountant, we go over my tax situation. In adding up my 1099C-s my actual savings (also called income) in negotiating my credit card debt was $78,400. We added up my assets at the time of settlement and subtracted my liabilities and my insolvent position was $36,000 so I must pay tax on $42,400 .... ouch!! I also got laid off on my job last year and was forced to claim a 401k loan as income (I used that money to help with debt settlement). So when the accountant gets all done with me, I owe the IRS about $14,500 and the state $4,000. So I ask for tax advice from the accountant, do I pay the IRS with my left over 401k money or do I arrange payments with the IRS? Hands down, she says pay the IRS with your remaining retirement.

There may be two reasons for this decision. First of all I still have not recovered from the financial crisis and am not earning enough for a large payment monthly to the IRS and second, it puts the nightmare to bed finally. So I went to the bank and got the money knowing that next year, I have to pay tax and penalty on the money I took to pay the IRS and the state, but I hope to have enough tax deductions from my business expenses i.e. mileage, advertising, home office use and etc.

So now I have about $16,000 in retirement money left and hopefully there will be no reason to touch it. I think the housing market here in the North will be turning around soon and we should be at least stable and working some of the time. I'm looking for ways to make other income including teaching budgeting and credit counseling, but today it occured to me that maybe I should look for a job writing a monthly column in our local paper about credit, budgeting and how to save money. It could help with my business and help other people as well. I know I have learned so much going through this process.

This week I checked out and started tracking our spending. I'm watching my DH with his ATM debits again and he has headed out of control. I wish he would stop smoking; it is a major expense and it's going up all the time, not to mention the health risk associated with smoking. My DH is a cancer survivor and should definately not be smoking.
With cigarettes over $6.00 a pack here and he smokes a pack a day, that is $42.00 a week and we really can't afford it, but what do you do??

Finances and Taxes

February 23rd, 2009 at 03:30 pm

So I have come to the time to start thinking about filing my taxes. I have received all my 1099C's for the credit card debt and the credit card companies did not date the 1099's the day of settlement. This affects everything because the IRS says your point of settlement is the date on the 1099c and the balance sheet has to be prepared on that date. So I had balance sheets done at the point of each settlement, but now I have a different date so I have to reconstruct my balance sheets to the new dates. I'm probably going to actually do better because the money was gone and my asset position was less making for a more insolvent position; so that is a silver lining.

The new job is going great, I only wish there were more customers. It seems that everyone is nervous about buying right now and there are some great deals out there, but if you don't know if you are going to have a job, you don't buy a house.

I have been working deligently on a credit counseling business. I'm thinking of doing this on the side to help people get back on track with their credit and to educate them on how to get out of debt. I'm not confident that I have it down yet, but I'm working on it.

My house is pretty much done and I'm looking to refinance perhaps in another month to get a better rate. It would be a good time for the DH to consolidate some of his final debts as well and get him in a better position.

I'm making plans to leave for Florida on April 16th. My sister is lending us a condo on the ocean for 10 days at no charge, she says she thinks I deserve it. Nice sister!! I can hardly wait to get out of this cold Northern weather, I spend most days in the house because it is so cold out. That is the hardest part about living in a colder climate.

What has been Happening?

December 1st, 2008 at 12:41 pm

As my readers know, in September I was laid off by a large national lender that I had worked for for almost 10 years. I felt it coming and had accepted another job with another lender the day before I was laid off, so I was feeling really good about following my intuition and looking for a job when I thought something was going to happen and having a new job when it did.

So I started the new job in October, I was really excited about the new job, it was with one of the largest banks in the country and they had a lot of tools for lenders to use to help market our products and etc. I immediately picked up about $1,000,000 in new loans. I started on a guaranteed salary with the ability to receive additional commission if I exceeded the salary base. With the loans I took in I could have exceeded the salary in November, making for extra money for Xmas. However, I found that the new lender does not have a streamlined and efficient process, they are so unorganized that they can't get a loan to closing. I could bore you with the details of one loan disaster after another that I experienced with this lender and how incompetent and unprofessinal their staff was, and how they appeared to have no regard for human life.

As an experienced lender with 22 years of experience and someone who has a conscience when I deal with my clients, I became very defensive of my customers and felt they were not being treated respectfully, no one even seemed to care what they were doing, there was no smooth loan process and they really didn't care if they met the customers expectation or not, they didn't seem to realize these were people with dreams and lifes and they were messing with them. I would wait and try so hard to get a customer through and then they would come out with new conditions just before we were going to close and I would have to transfer the loans to another lender just to get them through. When I transfer a loan I am not paid for my work, however, I felt great relieve knowing I had finally assisted them with their loan request. After transferring three loans to another lender and watching it close within a week, I got so angry, I quit! Yes, you heard it right, I quit! When there is no regard to a human being in an organization that is suppose to serve them, I just couldn't handle it and the stress was overwhelming, to the point I could not sleep and I was in constant turmoil trying to get more and more ridiculous documentation for inexperienced underwriters who obviously did not know what they were doing. With my years of experience I could have underwritten a loan myself and I was constantly correcting the underwriters and then would have to provide them with documentation from government manuals showing them they were wrong; I'm a government loan specialist and where they got these people, I don't have a clue.

So how smart was that? We are in the peak of a financial crisis and I've been through one myself and I quit my job. Well, I am also no dummy and I know my business reputation and that my name is worth something, so the word hit the street that I had quit and immediately two lenders called. One lender was a local bank desk job lending on an annual salary (very low) plus a commission and no sign on bonus. The other lender was a mortgage company that a few of my former friends had gone to when our company laid us off, they offered a nice incentive package and they were the lender that pickup up my crippled loans and put them through within a week (obviously efficient and organized). So I have chosen the mortgage company with a guaranteed salary into March, which is great because that is our slowest time of year and I also have the ability to make commission if I exceed salary, which I will try very hard to do. I actually start work today and they are allowing me to work out of my home like I have for years.

Am I scared taking a new job in this lending environment? Absolutely, but I'm more confident that I can do my job with these people and I'll just let time take care of things. I'm a little nervous right now with what has happened to me in the last few months with my employment and all the major changes in my life.

I'm really going through a tough time emotionally right now because I sold my home of 26 years, moved an hour away from my kids, my 19 year old baby moved out so I'm experiencing the empty nest syndrome and I've been working nonstop in my new home renovating it so it is more liveable (painting, painting and more painting).

While I'm going through all this, my DH decides to act up, he takes over $700 of money out of our budget and just blows it, he is still out of control with the debit card and adds about another $400 on top of that and he decides to take out a student loan for his child without consulting with me (with a total debt now of $20,000 on student loans). I get the statement in the mail and that is how I find out. Now should this bother me? No it shouldn't if he could pay it by himself, but he is already maxed with his debt and is barely able to meet his expenses and our joint housing expense. We have a joint checking and he is out of control with debit charges and by the end of the month he usually spends more than he brings into the budget. This has been a continuing problem for over a year now. My husband and I have been together for a little over two years, we made some financial decisions in the beginning on how our finances would be handled, because I make more money than my husband we decided on a joint checking so there would no fighting about who was going to pay for this and that, but he has not been able to control his spending and does not have the same frugal nature as I do, it has caused some serious problems in our relationship and when he just takes large sums of money and blows them, I become very upset.

So the house is almost finished, I have just two more rooms to paint, the job situation still shaky and my husband is out of financial control; I'm feeling just a little overwhelmed right now. I'm of the belief that God never gives you more than you can handle, but right now he is pushing it. I'm finding that when all this is going on in your life, it is very hard to keep a positive attitude and I have caught myself being very negative lately; something I intend to work on.

I also have the opinion that when you don't know what to do; do nothing. So I'm just giving all this more time and we will see what happens next, but I am very tired.

Getting Ready for Winter

October 28th, 2008 at 10:59 am

I'm glad to see that oil prices are dropping, but the DH and I took some extra steps to cut fuel consumption this long, cold winter. The first step was buying a wood pellet stove in August when they had sales and we were able to get a stove for $1,500. We also ordered pellets and locked the price at $240 a ton (they are now $300 a ton). We had replaced two doors last year and three storm windows so that should help.

As we were renovating our property I noticed our kitchen door window was losing a lot of heat. The door is an aluminum door and has a window in the top and the window looked like it moved and there was a gap, it also had a very dirty window (the tenant didn't wash windows for an entire year and a half). Aluminum doors will last a long time and the actual door appeared to be in good shape. I started messing around with the window and tried to wash it and etc., and the whole window fell out. My DH thought we needed a whole new door which would mean a new casing, a lot of work and money. However, after researching through his supply catalog, we found that the window could be replaced for $40.00 and it solved our heat loss problem as well; it's like finding gold, we saved $300 or more.

My DH is an experienced builder and he was able to work a deal out with some contractors to come to the house and add more insulation to our attic for $100. So this should save on additional heat loss. We knew we were losing heat in the attic because there were dark areas on the ceiling were the rafters are which means you are losing heat through the ceiling. So this problem is solved as well.

We orderd our first 100 gallons of oil at $3.38 a gallon (ouch). We are hurrying to get that pellet stove running so we can stop using oil, it needs a new stove pipe which we purchased and painted black to match the stove and a new thermostat which we have installed, this weekend we should have that pipe installed and we hope to burn our first pellets. I can hardly wait, it has been so cold out and I won't turn the thermostat up above 68 and today we are suppose to get snow, so it's not that warm in the house; being thin I get cold easily and once the feet are cold, they never get warm again.

The house is coming along very well. We apparently had a faulty propane burner in the house we were not aware of and our tenant didn't tell us, so all the ceilings and walls are stained with black smoke stains, I have to paint every wall and all the ceilings. I've almost got the upstairs done and have started the largest room in the downstairs. I also painted the cupboards and replaced some of the hardware to give them a fresh look. I found some beautiful floor tile on sale in earth tones for $85 at the Home Depot. We needed a new entry way into the house because the prior one was water damaged. My DH installed it and it looks beautiful with the old red oak floors, it blended nicely and took care of what could have been a very expensive repair. My DH originally thought we would have to rag out the old floor and replace it and sand all the floors in the upstairs area so they would blend, this would have probably cost about $3000 and we were able to fix it with new tile and no sanding, a huge savings of time and money.

My DH did some custom construction of beams and crown molding in the main living area and we painted it with a semi gloss ivory color. He had also taken down a wall and made a much larger living area with a combined dining room and living room. The room we removed was wasted space we used for an office. Now the space is more family oriented and it gives a warm and cozy feeling. Since we are doing all the work ourselves, these improvements have been very inexpensive and it looks lovely.

My DH is able to get all his materials either at discount or free because some of the materials are scrap materials from one of his jobs. I bought paint at Walmart because someone told me that was generic Sherwin Williams paint, I only paid $10 a gallon. The color was rich and nice, but it didn't have the quality of a thick paint and required two coats instead of one. Overall, I'm happy with the results and the paint spread evenly. Paint can do amazing things to a room, but would not recommend Walmart paint, I found Glidden paint to be a good paint and reasonable.

I made an interesting discovery through this process too. When someone from the past was decorating this house, they had put in a brick tile floor space under the area for the woodstove and a pale yellow tile wall behind the woodstove. The yellow tile goes from the floor to the ceiling and is about six feet wide. It looks awful and doesn't match the room and is some what of an eye sore and stood out in the room saying "hello, look at me". So I lightly sanded the wall tile, which was ceramic and I primed and sealed it with a nice Behr product, then I painted the wall tile the same color as the walls in the room, it blended right in and looks the way it should and now the floor underneath the stove looks more like it belongs there. I didn't know you could paint ceramic tile on a wall; a painter told me about it.

I feel like I've started my own "This is your House" a series on cheap home repairs that look like a million bucks.

Closed on the house..

October 10th, 2008 at 02:30 pm

So I closed on the house finally, it was a nightmare closing with a two hour notice and then there is a probably with the title and I closed two weeks ago and my money is still in escrow and the people are living in my house. Don't even ask, it only happens to me.

So we have moved and we are renovating the new property. We have no furniture and no money to buy any until they release my money. So we wait or we hire an attorney - so I guess we wait.

Meanwhile the stock market has gone crazy and I checked what is left of my 401k and I have lost $16,633 since I lost my job. I'm panicking because of all my tax implications on the credit card savings and I can't pay back my 401k loan so I'll have to pay tax there too so I now owe the IRS and I was counting on my 401k to bail me out; if need be, but if I have no money left in my 401k I'll have to find another way to pay the IRS. It just seems never ending and President Bush is making a statement on the economy; we would like to hear something positive.

I hope that when the elections are over our economy will begin to recover. I am thankful I sold a house in these times; so living without furniture is a minor inconvience.

Lost my job, but saw it coming ....

September 4th, 2008 at 08:51 am

About two weeks ago I started reading info on the company I work for and saw they were in huge financial distress. I decided that I should start job searching and had an interview with a top mortgage company in the country and was offered a position. On Tuesday I accepted the job and put in for a background check and etc. before they could officially hire me. Yesterday all employees of my company were summoned to a conference call; I and many other employees were laid off effective Friday. I'm not expecting problems with my background check, my credit is in good standing now and it should go through.

I can't believe I saw this coming and had a job lined up when I was laid off; I'm truly blessed and am so thankful for the things that are happening in my life right now. Sometimes when you look at things, they were suppose to happen this way.

I think of the "what ifs" - what if I had not cleaned up my credit? What if I hadn't sold my house? What if I hadn't found a reliable car? So many things have happened and they have all happened as they should. Being in a financial mess helped me to straighten out my life in many ways and although my job may be in limbo right now, I know things are working out the way they should and I will be fine through this. Today I heard the first positive reports on the news for "first time homebuyers" this is what we need, some positive reports about buying a home now while the market is down. If "first time homebuyers" take advantage of the programs and start buying houses, it will allow current home owners to move on and buy their new homes and the cycle will begin and the economy will start to recover. Let's hope that this is it and things start moving forward in the near future so we can start to recover in this country.

Contract on the House

August 17th, 2008 at 09:10 pm

This has been an amazing 10 days. I sold a diamond ring for $1000, I sold my used car after it was in an accident and I made $6,900 with the insurance check, I sold my second vehicle, which needed about $3,000 work, to an auction service and lost $800 on what I owed, but it beats the repairs and I wanted to pay off the loan associated with the car and I can't afford an expensive German car that is falling apart. My neighbor sold me her car $6,000 under loan value and the bank actually gave me a loan because there was plenty of equity and I had only a six month flaw in my credit history; after all I have been through this last year and this year, my credit score was still 622.

I have saved the best for last; I got a contract on my home and will be paying off another $152,000 in debt and I'll be walking away with a sweet $8,000, better than a foreclosure and down to one home. The people that came of the first of the month were tire kickers and didn't even have a bank preapproval, they just had a plan with no substance. I was very discouraged, then one day out of the blue people show up and want to see my house, no appointment or anything, they just show up and I let them in and they love it and we sign a contract and they are bank preapproved and we will close in six weeks. I feel so fortunate, I was so frightened I would be sitting on this house for another winter and I didn't know how I was going to do it, now I don't have to worry.

My business is really down and I'm thinking about finding a second job waitressing or bartending evenings. In October I'm moving to a high end ski area, this is where my second home is, so there should be more work in that area maybe I can find some business there too on condo sales and etc.

So that is all my great news and I'm truly grateful for all the blessings occurring in my life; I know I will survive and someday this will all be past me and it's looking like sooner than later.

Showing the House ...

August 5th, 2008 at 10:28 am

So my house is on the market now; I had one tire kicker show up at one of my yard sales and he just had to see the house and got me all excited and was never to be heard of again. So I put my house out there and I've been waiting patiently and I received an email from someone interested that wants to look at the house this Wednesday.

So on Friday my husband and I decided to go away for our anniversary and my 50th birthday and we take a low budget trip and drive to the Ocean shore and stay in a Best Western for a few days. I check my email on vacation and find an email asking to see the house. So we came home early yesterday, I start freaking out; found some peeling paint outside by the doors so I scrapped and painted that, then found the gas grill had blown black smoke all over one side of the house were I had been cooking and I had to wash and paint that. My husband started to help me and he washed all the outside windows. I was going to the basement and noticed numerous hand prints, dings and marks on those walls so I painted the whole stair well and then I decided I don't like the looks of the down stairs bathroom so I tear that apart and start putting on a fresh coat of paint and before I know it; it's time for bed and the bathroom is only half done.

So here I am up again early and am going to finish that bathroom and then I will need to vacuum, mop, dust and wax the floors (my 18 year old son had friends in while we were gone). My potential buyer is coming tomorrow at 4:00 pm. So I have plenty of time to get the house looking cozy. I have moved some of my storage to the back shed to give the house a feeling of lots of room. One of the things I find is that if you keep looking, there is one more thing you can do; I feel like this is what ADD must feel like, I'm painting one wall, washing the toilet, then find myself cleaning a shower, it's hard to stay focused when there is so much I want to do and need to do.

Also, I have a job to do and I had calls while I was away, customers I need to get back to. I was going through the customers that called and four of them were people I am just giving credit report assistance to; these are people that are looking for help to clean up their credit so they can get a future loan. I generally give free credit repair educational services just to help people clean up and in a year or two they buy a home and use my service. These are time consuming customers and with the real estate market slow I'm finding time to help them; that really is a good thing.

So my plate is full, my trottle is to the metal today and I'm off multi-tasking. I hope this is not just another tire kicker ... there is so much work to preparing a house for showing.

Real Estate Market Slow Down

July 16th, 2008 at 10:09 am

I've been in the housing market for 22 years. This year was the worst July in sales I have ever seen. I'm starting to wonder what I should do; I still make more money than I'd make in a factory or flipping burgers and I get the convenience of working out of my home. However, I'm scared that sooner or later, this is all going to completely dry up. Things are just not moving like they use to and it feels more like the winter in sales than the summer here.

I've kind of made a decision that when I move to the second home, I'm looking for a part time job waitressing or bartending somewhere. Maybe just a few nights a week for backup to help with the housing expenses.

I'm getting a check this week from the insurance company on my run away car that got dented and scratched on one side ($4,100) and I've decided to use it to buy fuel for the winter instead of fixing the car. The car is stored for the winter so I will worry about it next year. Also, the car is a 1999 convertible, if I have it fixed with paint and labor, the cost will only be about $2,000 and with the miles and the year and what I have already spent on that car, it can wait. The car doesn't look so bad I can't drive it and still enjoy having the top down and the wind blowing through my hair. Lately it has been a lot of rain in my hair; that is all it does here - looks like we are going to have a wet and damp summer and then go right back into a cold winter. Summers are never long enough here.

The house I'm in now hasn't even had a bite on it. So I listed it on line, bought some fancy signs with a brochure box to put flyers in and have been advertising it weekly in the local paper. I'm going to have an open house in another week and see how that goes. If I don't sell this house by October 1st, I'm renting it and moving. I'll wait until the market comes back next spring maybe, but I can't heat two houses all winter and the heat in this house is propane gas which is about $2.85 a gallon right now; last year I used 1100 gallons and that was for my furnace, cook stove, fireplace, dry and hot water tank. I don't think that is too bad, the fireplace uses the most gas and someone could cut back on that, but these winters are cold and long.

Let's all hope the housing market rebounds soon; maybe after the election something will change.

I fixed my own car ...

July 4th, 2008 at 03:47 pm

My car is 8 years old, it is starting to have some problems, one of them being rust around the wheel well. I took the car to a auto body shop and asked how much to fix the wheel wells. The guy tells me he can't just fix the wheel wells he will have to paint the entire side of the car on both sides so the paint matches. I told him it didn't need to match perfect, I just don't want surface rust to turn into holes in my car; I have to drive this car another year or two. He tells me that he has to do it that way and it will cost $2,000. So I told him thanks, but no thanks.

So I go to our local car supply store, I buy some sand paper, rust preventor spray, primer, had them mix up matching paint, sprayer gun, rubbing compound and a buffing machine.

I get home and go to work. I sanded off the old paint and rust. I then sprayed it with rust preventor. I waited 24 hours, then I primed it, waited for that to dry and then I sprayed paint on. It blended quite nicely; I was truly surprised. Then I lightly sanded the paint with very, very fine paper and I put rubbing compound on the car and buffed it to a nice shine. Total cost was less than $100 and the car looks fine. I'm sure it's not as nice as a professional could do, but I don't have any more rust and it will slow down the process of the car deteriorating.

I'm babying this car because the clutch is acting up and I have to prepare for that repair to the tune of $1,500. Hopefully, it will be the last repair in a long while. This car is a 2000 Audi A6 Quattro that I bought used in 2003, it has been very good to me, but she is getting old.

It is Finally Over ... or is it?

July 2nd, 2008 at 10:46 am

The debt settlement chapter of my life is finally over. I have managed to bring all my debts current and settled a massive amount of credit card debt. Now my credit will start to rebound and maybe after a year or two, I will be considered credit worthy again. I've seen this with my clients so I know that it does rebound; much better than filing a bankruptcy that stays on your credit for 10 years and would have ruined my career. I settled the following debts:

BOA - Settled at 38%
Chase - Settled at 45%
Citi - Settled at 38%
Discover - Settled at 50%
Sears - Paid down $1350 and am making 0% interest on the remaining $6,100 in credit card debt.

My total savings was $78918.93. It's not over yet; I will get 1099's from each credit card company and I have to count that as income; so I had a very good year and I wish I had made that much at my job.

Fortunately the IRS has an insolvent provision (publication 908, form 982; cancellation of debt) so you take your financial position at each point of debt settlement (the day you paid) and if your liabilities exceed your assets, you are insolvent. According to my calculations; I'm insolvent to the tune of the first $45,000, that means I have to pay tax on $33,918.93 at possibly 28%, which would be approximately $9,500. I generally get $5,000 back in a tax refund so I will need about $4,500 when I file taxes next April. I am definately going to need a tax professional to help me deal with this; the last thing I want is a tax audit.

My saving grace will be if I can sell the house and make about $15,000; that will solve the tax problem and the rest of the funds would go toward the $26,000 401k loan I have remaining; I had to take out a 401k loan to settle this mess. I'm fortunate that that is all I owe, I was able to save money, sell possessions and had some money given to me by my DH. If I do not sell the house, I could make installments to the IRS until next filing,in 2010, when I would get enough back to pay them in full. I've talked to them at length and they have a 5 year, 8% interest installment plan (I don't need another payment, but if I can't save enough between now and then, I will have to do it; I don't want a tax lien on my house or a freeze on my bank account).

So I should feel a great relief right now, but I have a tendency to worry about unfinished business. I guess I consider this unfinished until the IRS is done with me. I have considered consulting with a tax professional in the next few months just to be sure I'm understanding everything properly. I have filed my own taxes for several years, but I've never had this situation before and the tax instructions and definitions of assets and liabilities are vague.

So technically, I went from $135,000 in credit card debt to $26,000 in the form of a 401k loan, $6,100 I still owe Sears and $9,500 in tax implications; a total debt still owed of $41,600. So in the last six months I have reduced my debt by $93,400. That is truly amazing when you look at it in dollars and cents. My goal is to pay off that debt by the end of next year. I have several plans on how I will do that, including selling the current house I live in; this housing market has to turn around soon.

Don't get me wrong here; I'm very grateful and thankful that I've been able to clean up and reorganize this situation I'm in. I feel truly blessed and feel there was some devine intervention here.

What to do Payment Plan/Debt Settlement?

July 1st, 2008 at 09:55 am

I am down to may last creditor and I am also down to the last money I have. I have approximately $4,000 that was given to me to use for debt settlement. My last creditor wants $4,100 right now to settle my final debt. This is my dilemnia; I only have $4,000 right now, my clutch is going in my remaining car (my last blog explains second car is probably being totalled), my tenant gave notice she is moving out of my second home so I need to give her back $1,600 for her last months rent and deposit, I need to purchase a wood pellet stove before winter ($2,000) or I'll never be able to afford fuel for the winter and I need to move. My house may not sell and if it doesn't, I have to find a tenant before winter and I won't be able to rent the house for what I owe monthly, I'll be short about $150 a month; better than a full mortgage payment and paying to heat an empty house.

So my last creditor has offered me two options to choose from; first would be 0% financing for 5 years on my balance. This means the nightmare is over, one small payment until it is paid in full (giving a better credit rating) and the ability to use my reserves for necessary car repairs and the wood pellet stove. The second option is debt settlement of $4,100 (55%) which will clean out my cash reserves leaving no emergency money and will pay off my final credit card debt.

I have additional funds coming in the form of an insurance check on my totalled car, which I wanted to use to pay off my remaining vehicle. I may have to trade my remaining vehicle next year as it is 9 years old and is very expensive to repair and it seems to be having more problems now, so next year I will be able to trade the car and not be tipped on my equity or I could use the insurance money to fix the clutch and buy the wood pellet stove and do the debt settement.

I'm leaning toward the 0% financing for 5 years and I'll pay more monthly to pay it off early. This way I will have money in the bank and be able to take care of expenses coming. It will leave me with a more positive credit rating on this card, but I will still owe $7,500 in credit card debt; I had wanted to get rid of all credit card debt, but I guess this is better than having the possibility of not being able to fix my car or heat my home this winter. It will take me a few more years to be credit card free, but the nightmare will be over and my credit will start recovering.

What would you do?

Run Away Car with No Driver

June 30th, 2008 at 11:09 am

This weekend my DH and I are invited to a party. The house we were invited to sits at the top of a very long steep driveway. All the time my DH is driving up the hill he is telling me horror stories that occurred through the years on that road and people who have gone off it; especially in the winter months, it was very steep and appeared to be a second class road. So we get to the top of the hill and he mindfully parks the car in a vertical position across the hill, puts it in gear and puts on the emergency brake.

We go join the crowd and about an hour into the event everyone is running out the door yelling about a car; I can't see my parked car anymore and you guessed it, our car kicked out of gear and headed down the hill on it is own; hitting another car and passing several others. My car is now probably totalled; the other car doesn't look much better.

I'm insured, but probably not for long; I have had two accidents (neither my fault) in the last year and a speeding ticket. So what is the good news out of this; there has to be some? I don't have to sell the car now, I'll get an insurance check and no one was hurt; accept DH's pride and he will deeply miss the car.

I've never seen anything like this in my life;it was totally bizarre.

Should I use a Realtor?

June 21st, 2008 at 10:46 am

My house is for sale, I put a sign out front and listed it on Craig's List a few weeks ago. I checked with my local paper and it is $19.50 to run an ad on Saturday with a picture of the house; I thought that was cheap. I thought I would try this for a month and see what happens.

We have two houses; one is rented until the end of August. On August 1st I will have two mortgages to pay and we need to sell this house. I don't know how long we can make two mortgage payments and the housing market doesn't seem to be picking up here. Without a housing market; I am losing income and the ability to make two mortgage payments. Our total monthly payments are about $4,600 with the two houses, vehicles, insurance and utilities. On August 1st I can terminate my Verizon wireless plan which will save me $175 a month. In September we will be moving into the second property and that should reduce my cable, telephone and internet bill, currently it is about $200 a month and if I get the comcast package it will be less. The DH and is going to try to get a home equity loan so we can put a new window in the second home (the current one is old and losing heat), new carpet and a wood pellet stove and pellets for the winter. I don't know who can afford the predicted $5.00 a gallon for fuel oil; my mother paid $5.09 a gallon for kerosine last week. I'm really worried about the poor and the elderly this winter; I just don't see how they will be able to make it, I'm praying for a mild winter here.

So I'm really debating with thoughts about selling the house. Should we try to sell on our own or bite the bullet and pay a Realtor 6%? If we use a Realtor, it will probably leave us with about $5,000 in net proceeds; not even enough to pay my tax implications on my debt settlement. I wish I had sold the house a few years ago when the market was still thriving, now everyone is giving low offers just because the economy is stuggling. If I can't get enough money for the house; I may have to rent it.

Once I can sell this house things should start looking up financially; I just hope it sells, it's a nice house in a nice location and is not too expensive; I listed it for $174,900 but the lowest I'd take is $165,000 and my house is within walking distance of the town school and the ski area is a mile away; it was a great home to raise my children in.

Negotiating Debt

June 4th, 2008 at 11:22 am

This has been a journey and for the last six months,it has been a living hell. I had never had a credit issue in over 20 years and then the housing market crashes and like thousands of people; we have found ourselves in a personal finance dilemna. What to do and how to handle it?

There are several things that people do, some file bankruptcy, some go through debt management programs, some settle their debts with their creditors for less and some just take the approach of "do nothing and it will go away". Throughout this process I called "debt settlement companies" and did consider using a few of them. Then one of them told me to go ahead, try to settle myself and I would be "sued". I saw that as a fear tactic and felt that if they could do it, I could do it. I consulted with a bankruptcy attorney and he advised me that creditors don't want to hear from anyone but their customer and you could actually increase your risk of being sued by hiring a third party. So I sat down, added up my debt, took an amount of about 45% and decided that is what I would need. I also knew in order to be successful I would need to settle everything within 180 days before they were charged off. So I borrowed, received money from family and sold personal possessions and saved and budgeted every dime I could.

Now here I am, down to my last creditor and I only have about 60 days left on that account to settle it. I don't have enough money so I have cleaned out my shed, cleaned out my basement and am advertising a few items in the local paper. I'm selling some office equipment I had stored away and a rototiller. That should give me about $1,000 and will help with the process. My car is still broken, but right now this is priority. I have another used car to get me around until I can afford to fix my primary car; although that is in the garage right now with a warranty item that was replaced last year. I have two cars, one is a summer car and it's 9 years old and my primary car is 8 years old.

With all the creditors I dealt with, my hardest creditor to deal with has been Discover. They called frequently, sometimes 4 times a day. I would talk to them in the morning and they would call three more times before the day was out. They were difficult to deal with; they would always ask the same questions even though I knew they had notes. Then when you were done and I had told them I did not have a normal wage and couldn't make monthly payments, they would ask if they could charge my account for the amount due (like they didn't hear a word I said); they would then ask if they could speak to another family member and etc. Then they would say they were going to get someone to help stop the calls and they would transfer me to another collection person and put me through the whole thing again. I knew the routine so I would hang up when they tried to transfer me. I was very intimidated by them, I lost sleep and was a nervous wreck after talking to them. This is what they do, in the beginning when you are late they will agree to settle at 85%, then after about 90 days they start talking 60% and then one person told me Discover never settles for less than 60%, well about 10 days before chargeoff (charge off usually occurs at 180 days) they dropped to 50% of the total balance. I was able to settle my account at 50% just before charge off and that was a big tool they used to settle, "if you settle now you won't be reported as charged off, it will be an R-9 "settled" which is better than a charge off. So I made sure I settled before charge off. However, I pull my credit 10 days later and it is reported as a charge off by Discover. I called them and they said it is my problem and I have to dispute it with the credit bureau. So just one more nasty and one last insult.

What I have learned here is that if you are having a "true hardship" most creditors are sympathetic and will work with you. Citi called me and told me they were sorry I was in such financial distress and they offered me a settlement at 38%. I believe it is an industry secret rarely discussed, but debt settlement is real and available to people who cannot pay their debts and are in financial crisis.

My hope in blogging about this experience is that it will help others who are overextended and need to bring their lives back into control and financial stability versus filing bankruptcy.

What are the affects on my credit after this? My credit score is 630 and I think that after 12 good months, I will probably be back up, at least over 660. I have 11 negatives on my report and 32 positives, because this is the first time in my life I have had a problem, I will probably recover faster than some people will.

I was hoping to have this all done by the end of June, but that won't happen. I'm short about $1,500 to settle with my last creditor, my car is broke down, my son is graduating from high school, my daughter is getting married and I have some additional expenses I did not expect, i.e. some travel expense and dental expense. So it will be difficult but I will find a way.

I will be broke, but I will be credit card free.

Another Settlement; what to do about the car?

June 1st, 2008 at 10:48 pm

I just settled another credit card and tomorrow I'm suppose to finish the next one. These cards are both with the same company and have been very hard to deal with. After I have them both "settled" I will share this experience. I did settle with them on one card before chargeoff, but they did not share their end of the bargain, which shouldn't surprise me after all I have been through with this company. I will give further information on this and how I intend to deal with it after they are done with me and I am done with them.

I have been trying very hard to save more money to finish this up, I also had a yard sale. However, my car broke down and it's eight years old, the muffler broke which was going to be very expensive but my mechanic figured out a way to fix it for less, would have been $1,800 but instead cost me $850, but now my clutch is going and after a long winter, the paint is starting to peel off my front fenders, so it needs to be touched up. I really need to trade the car with the cost of a clutch at $1,000, paint at $1,000 and if I have to have a maintenance kit it will be another $1,500 and the motor in my automatic window on the driver side is going too and sometimes the window won't roll up. The car is only worth about $4,700 and I owe $5,200 - what would you do? I don't have the money to trade nor do I have the money to fix it? My DH says he will trade it for me if we need to, but I don't want any more debt.

My house is on the market and we thought we had an interested party, but he changed his mind for now. He will come here mid July and look at the house again. I hope to have a contract on it before then. If I get a contract on it I am hoping to make enough money to pay my IRS tax implications from debt settlement. Also, our rental property needs a new window and a wood stove before winter. We are not paying the predicted $5.00 a gallon for oil this year and are getting a "wood pellet" stove. It should pay for itself the first year and it is eco-friendly.

So much going on right now, my daughter is getting married and there is major expense with my dress, DH's suit and my sons Tux (he's in the wedding). It is not a good time for me to be having these problems; this is my only daughter and her father is deceased, so I'm it.

My son had his senior prom so I had the tux expense, tickets and his dinner. His father didn't offer to help and he has a lot more money than I do. This is the way it has been for years, through my kids college and etc., I'm always it, their father doesn't feel the need to contribute much at all and won't help with any of the kids car expense, entertainment and etc.

We have graduation as well, but this shouldn't be too bad. I can just have a BBQ here after the ceremony. When it rains it pours.

I want so badly to end this debt settlement but with all these extra expenses I'm really going to have to get creative. I have put together some personal possessions that I could try to sell; a ring, office equipment, rototiller - I'm working on it.

The nightmare is almost over ...

May 10th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

It has been months of sleepless nights; worrying about how I was going to get out of the enormous amount of debt that I'm in. Well miracles do occur and this week Chase settled a $20,000 debt with me at 45%. They were very nice to me through this process and would just make calls and see if my situation had changed. I wish I could say it has, but truth is my phone hasn't rang with new business for over a week now; the housing market is just dead.

So now I'm waiting for my IRS refund that is still tied up. I still have about $4,000 left for debt settlement from the money I borrowed. So I don't have enough money to settle with anyone right now and I have two creditors left. I have some money tied up in an escrow account that may come to me by June, about $3700. I'm having a moving sale on Memorial day weekend and I'm selling a lot of my furniture and lots of other things I've accumulated through the years in my basement.

Hopefully, everything will come together and I can finish this credit card mess. I'm not talking to the last two creditors for the rest of this month, I talked to them last week and actually had a heated discussion with the meanest creditor I have; they have been the worst and have treated me like a piece of crap since day one. I have had nightmares about that last creditor; I hope I will be able to settle with them soon.

Another Credit Card Settled

May 2nd, 2008 at 11:38 am

As you all know I'm in a lot of credit card debt and my income in the housing market, crashed. Since last October I've been trying to come up with money to settle my credit card debt. My first creditor, BOA, I had a balance of $59900 and they settled for $23,000 early on, which was a huge relief. Since then I have been struggling with collection calls.

Last week, I unexpectedly got a call from a Supervisor from Citi card company that I have a $26000.00 balance with, he advises that he has listened to the tapes of my hardship and feels it is serious and they might like to settle. He ask me what I can give and I tell him all I have left at this time is $10,000 because I just did a large settlement with BOA. I've had to borrow money and sell personal belongings to get to this point. He says he will think it over, take it to Management and will call me back by Tuesday or Wed. next week. I finally hear from him on Thursday morning this week and he said they would take the $10000 as settled for less.

I was so excited; another credit card resolved and just three more to go totaling about $54000, I'm over half way there. Citi has been very nice to me throughout this whole process, they always treated me with respect and were nice to me and even gave words of encouragement. There are some very nice people working there.

So how do I get through the rest of this? I have a little money left, I have a used car to sell, I've got my house on the market and I'm going have a yard sale to get rid of extra furniture; some office supplies and etc. I'm still waiting for my tax refund, an escrow refund and my stimulus payment. When I pull all this together I'll have an estimated $24,000; almost half of what I owe my credit card companies.

When I get through this I will have to start saving for my tax implications. I also have a car that is in need of a lot of repair and I can't fix it until I know I'm successful in my debt settlement. The car is 8 years old but will run nice once I get everything repaired. I figure my credit is shot for the next two years so I'll have to drive it, it has about 130,000 miles on it.

Someday this housing market will come around and when it does and I can catch up and start saving for another car; I'll pay cash for a used one, no more car loans, no more credit cards and hopefully when the house is sold; I'll have just one mortgage left I want to plug away at.

Ambitious plans for a brighter future.

The cost of a mortgage ....

April 17th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

It has been a while since I have written on my blog. I'd like to say it was because I was busy working, but the housing market is still slow and interest rates on mortgages are going up. Another obstacle I face in my business, is the cost of poor credit is going up. Fannie Mae is now charging extra closing costs in the form of points to people with scores of 720 or below. In light of this, now I will be writing more government loans like Federal Housing and Veteran loans who do not penalize people who have had credit challenges. Even our State Housing Program changed all terms of financing; going from 100% financing to 95-97% with stricter underwriting standards; things are changing daily.

Regarding my credit situation, I have not been able to negotiate any more settlements on my credit cards and the balances are growing. I only pray daily that something will happen to give me hope soon. I hate to think of the alternatives if I can't work all this out.

I'm preparing my house for sale; I've owned it for 26 years and I have mixed emotions about selling, but we can't continue with two houses. I've been fortunate to have a good tenant through the winter in our smaller home; without a tenant I don't know what we would have done. The rental house is smaller and much cheaper to live in and with things the way they are, we need to downsize.

This is a very scarey time in our economy; I'm watching heating fuel, gas, groceries and housing cost soar and I wonder how my youngest son will ever be able to live on his own. I believe we are in an official recission and I wonder were we will go from here?

Well I can't solve the worlds problems today so I guess I'll go outside today and rake the lawn. We still have some snow out there but I'll work around it.
I hope everyone is enjoying this nice week up through the east coast.

Where is my Refund?

March 27th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

So I prepare my taxes on February 5th and it looks like the IRS owes me. I send it via internet though Turbo Tax, within 10 days I get my State Refund and I'm still waiting for my Federal Refund. A few days later I get another mortgage interest statement. I amend my return $300 I'll get back. I cannot send this in by Turbo Tax again as an amended return, so I print out the amended return and send them in via snail mail.

Here we are about 6 weeks later and still no refund. I called the IRS last Thursday to inquire. They advise that they received my taxes on March 13th (that would mean it took over a month for my taxes to get to the IRS by mail), that doesn't sound right. They then tell me they can wait 19 cycles to respond to my amended return (19 weeks), he further advises me that they never received the electronic return. I advised him I never received a rejection, but when I sent in the amended return I sent in the original return attached that I had electronically filed. He says he wouldn't know because when they see a return is amended they just put it in the amended returns and review it later.

At this point, I'm very upset. I received my State refund so it had to go though and I never received notice via email that my return had been rejected. Just great, I'm in the process of trying to settle my credit cards and the IRS owes me $4,758 and they won't pay me until they are ready and they don't pay me interest and penalities for holding up my money. I explain to the IRS Represenative that I need my money, I'm behind on my debts and I'm having a difficult time making my mortgage and utilities; he ask if I'm in foreclosure and I advised him I am not, he says he will forward my case to an advocate but he doesn't think they will help and they don't care about my credit cards, that is not a true hardship. He further advises the advocate will call in the next three business days.

On Tuesday I call the IRS again, I have not heard from an advocate. They give me the name of the advocate that has been assigned to me so I call her number and leave a message; still no call from an advocate.

So the IRS can hold my money, can think my financial crisis is just a minor inconvenience and I will just have to wait until they are good and ready.
This is what I have to say; I paid my bills on time for 20 years, I've never been late on anything, then I fall into this big hole called the "housing crisis", as a result my credit goes to pieces, I can't sleep at night, I get sick from the stress and get pneumonia for the first time in years and they think it is just a minor inconvenience. Having financial problems affects ones life and if you are a conscientious person like myself, it affects every aspect of your life. Until I get this situation rectified, I will not feel complete as a person.

After I settle my debts I will have some tax implications. I'm sure the IRS will have their hand out and they will charge me tax and penalties if I do not pay on time - this all just seems very unfair to me and this could make the difference of me getting sued or not getting sued. If I can't come up with money before chargeoff on a credit card, it opens up the pandora box of litigation.

This is all so very frustrating and being sick has not made things better for me. All I want is my money and I want it as soon as possible so I can settle this financial mess I'm in. I wonder when I will see my money?

Debt Settlement Update

March 16th, 2008 at 02:15 pm

I haven't said much lately about my credit card situation and thought that maybe you'd like to know what has been happening. First of all, my phone has been ringing daily, I still have four creditors with 7 credit cards that are calling. I have my answering machine set up so I don't hear the constant ringing, but I can see from caller ID, they are calling.

I have been sick since last Sunday with that horrid flu and today I'm not much better still. I did talk to my creditors the week before I got sick just to let them know I was here and waiting to settle with them.

What I have learned from this experience is that there are policies within each credit card company and you have to wait until you are at least 120 days past due before they will negotiate a settlement. I'm not 120 days past due yet, I'm only a little over 90 days and less on some cards.

This whole thing seems like it has been an eternity, probably because I saw my falling last October and have been worrying relentlessly ever since. I've made offers to two of my large accounts; one wrote to me that they were unable to settle at this point and thanked me for my good faith effort to settle this account and the other told me I was not eligible yet. So I asked the collection person what they meant by "I'm not eligible yet, did it have to be a number of days?" She said, "you've got it" and then I said, "how many days, 120 days?" and she said, "you said it", I guess we are talking in code because this is a company secret. So two weeks into April I will be 120 days on one of my accounts and I am going to make the offer and see if I am now "Eligble". I will be so glad when this is over so I can move on with my life.

I was offered a new job a few weeks ago, but had to decline because my credit is a mess and in my business, "Credit is Character"; they would not have hired me if they had seen my credit. Even after I have cleaned this mess up, I am going to have to wait until my credit score goes up before I can apply elsewhere and it will be embarrassing to explain that I was overextended and had to take this approach. With the housing market not budging, I may have to take a different job and it would probably be in sales, because I could never work in an office again and be stuck to a desk, I've been on my own for years and it's a scarey thought that I would be confined in an office cubicle.

So the saga continues and hopefully, by June, this whole thing will come to a closure. In the meantime, I hope the housing market opens up. I was unable to pay my mortgages this month and am having to use money from my debt settlement account to pay them; that is not good, I need that money to settle this mess.

I have a car I'm planning on selling and hope to take that out of storage this week and get it to a garage so he can get it repaired and put on his lot to sell for me; there has been so much snow I haven't been able to do that yet. This would be a huge boost to my situation if I sold that car. The current vehicle I am driving is 8 years old and needs work so if I sell the other car I can fix my current vehicle to run for the next few years until my credit comes back; but even when my credit comes back, I hope to save enough money to pay cash for a good used vehicle and hope not to borrow any money - I never buy new!

After this situation the best thing I can do for myself or anyone can do for themselves, is put their own money in the bank and borrow against it to start building a new credit history. I do have a couple of mortgages I am paying on that also will help, but I do hope to sell a house this year.

What Budgeting Can Teach You About Money.

March 12th, 2008 at 12:05 am

I don't care who you are, if you do not write it down monthly, you do not know how much money you are spending. You can do it the old fashion way and just keep a monthly ledger or you can buy a program such as Quicken.

My husband has a terrible convenience store habit and he is constantly stopping at convenience stores buying cigarettes, coffee, diet coke, cookies, candy and snacks. It totals up and usually is $400 or more a month. We were married last August and I finally made the decision to trail his spending with a Quicken program. He really had no idea how much he was spending until I made him participate in the monthly budget.

The first step of my plan was to make him write out the income we anticipated and the debts to be paid:

Salary and Wages: $______________
Rental Income: ______________
Child Support/Alimony: ______________
Social Security: ______________
Pension: ______________
Dividend/Interest: ______________

Total: ============

Federal Income: _____________
State: _____________
FICA/Medicare: _____________
Other: _____________
Total: ===========

401K: _____________
Pension: _____________
Stocks/Bonds/Mutuals: _____________
Savings/College Plan: _____________
Other: _____________
Total: ===========
Mortgage/Rent: ______________
Real Estate Tax: ______________
Car Loan: ______________
Credit Card: ______________
Child Support/Alimony: ______________
Personal Loans: ______________
Other: ______________

Total: ============


Car Insurance: _____________
Homeowners Insurance: _____________
Life Insurance: _____________
Renters Insurance: _____________
Health Insurance: _____________
Dental/Eye Insurance: _____________
Disability Insurance: _____________
Employer Life Insurance: _____________
Other: _____________
Total: ===========

Groceries: ______________
Personal Care: ______________
Magazines/Subscriptions: ______________
Internet/Cable: ______________
Lights/Water/Sewer: ______________
Heating: ______________
Cell Phone: ______________
Telephone: ______________
Vehicle Gas/Taxi ______________
Parking Tolls: ______________
Union/Club Dues: ______________
Entertainment: ______________
Clothing: ______________
Doctor/RX Prescriptions: ______________
Dental: ______________
Day Care: ______________
Other: ______________
Other: ______________
Other: ______________
Total: ============

You will then know what you have left and if there isn't anything left, you need to cut back and budget how to make your money stretch until the end of the month. While DH had his hard copy to work from, I kept the true figures by plugging them in each day to the Quicken program. At the end of the month I printed the actual numbers and we compared them to his hard numbers. Interestingly, he had not budgeted for convenience store stops or cigarettes and he was way off on his budget.

After a few months of trailing all of the little convenience store stops he is finally starting to see how his "habit" is affecting our family budget. I can't say that he has it under contol yet, but at the end of the month he will get his Quicken report showing where all the money went. It's undisputable if you budget and make each other accountable to stay within the budget.

Wish me luck,this has been a hard habit for my husband to break and only true numbers bring reality and accountability.

Eating from the Stocked Items for the Month

March 5th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

In order to include some of the meals I've had this week, I'm starting with Friday because on Friday I had a crock pot dinner that carried over to two more meals this week. So here goes:

Friday: Beef Pot Luck Dinner

6 lb. Beef Shoulder Road
8 peeled potatoes
1 lb. baby carrots
1 chopped up onion
2 cups of water
Salt and Pepper to taste

I put all this in the crockpot with the veggies on the bottom, added two cups of water and put it on high for six hours. Meat was cooked medium well and there was nice au jus.

Saturday: Hearty Beef & Barley Stew

1 cup cubed up beef
1 cup cubed up carrots
1 cup cubed up potatoe
Juice from crock pot
1/2 cup barley
2 cans of Beef Broth
Spices to taste

Put it all in the crock pot on high and let cook for about two hours. Then I take a 1/2 cup of cold water add 3 T of flour and stir it together until all flour is dissolved and pour it in the crock pot to thicken the stew. Very delicious and we ate it with Texas Toast.

I still had enough beef, carrots and potatoe cubed from the Friday night pot luck to make another stew so I put it in the fridge for another nights menu.

Sunday: Chicken, Brocolli Alfredo

1 8 oz. chicken breast (cubed)
1 cup frozen chopped brocolli
1 jar alfredo sauce w/cheese
Angel Hair

I sauteed the cubed chicken breast in olive oil until all pieces were white and then I added the brocolli, I sauteed on low until the brocolli was fully thawed and the chicken was fully cooked and slightly browned and added the alfredo sauce.

As I was cooking the chicken alfredo I cooked up enough angel hair for four servings.

I served it with Texas Toast.

Monday: Beef Pot Pie

Two pie shells
Beef, Carrot & Potatoe Mixture
1 can of Beef Gravy

I lined a pie plate with pie pastry. I mixed the beef, carrot & Potatoe with gravy and poured it in the pie shell and then put on top layer; put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Tuesday: Lemon Chicken & Rice

2 large Chicken Breast
1 can of Chicken Broth
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 beaten egg
1 c. flour season with Lemon & Pepper Spice
Salt & Pepper
1 C. Rice
2 C. Water
2 T. butter

I first put 2 cup of water and 1 cup of rice with 2 T. butter in a microwave safe 2 quart pyrex dish. Put it on high for 18 minutes.

I pound the chicken until it is flat, cut it into four pieces. Dip it into the egg batter and then roll in the flour and place in a hot pan with olive oil and saute until browned on both sides and cooked; usually no more than 15 minutes. Take chicken out of the pan, put 1 can of chicken broth, 1/4 cup of lemon juice in fry pan. In a separate cup put 1/4 cup of cold water and stir in 3 T. flour, pour into chicken & Lemon broth and stir quickly with a fork so no lumping occurs. Spice to taste with lemon pepper and salt, when slightly thickened, add the chicken back into the mix and coat chicken. Serve over rice with canned asparagus pieces (the lemon from the chicken taste great on the asparagus).

Wednesday: Chili & Texas Toast

1 lb. of ground beef
1 large can of red kidney beans
1 jar of ragu sauce
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. italian spice
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. basil flakes
red pepper flakes to taste
Salt & Pepper

In a crock pot brown the ground beef on high, drain off grease. Pour in the remaining ingredients add spice and let it simmer for at least four hours. Serve with salad and texas cheese toast.

Thursday: Garlic Pork Lions

1 lb. pork lions
(soak in olive oil and crushed garlic for at least a couple of hours with salt and pepper to taste).
2 baking potatoes
1 can Green Beans

When pork is fully marinated. Start your oven at 350 degrees, wash you baking potatoes and punch holes in them with a fork. Let the potatoe cook for 30 minutes then arrange your pork loins in a baking dish. Put them in the oven for approximately 30 minutes along with the baking potatoes. Heat your green beans in the microwave and add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Friday: Pork Stir Fry

1 frozen bag of snow pea stir fry
Leftover Pork
Soy Sauce

Start your rice in the microwave, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice and 2 Tsp. of butter. Cook on high for 18 minutes.

Slice left over pork into thin short pieces. Saute the snow pea stir fry veggies in olive oil, when melted and cooked pour in your pork pieces, continue to saute until heated; add soy sauce to taste and serve over rice.

So there is our week menu. For meat I used 1 beef roast, 1 package of chicken (3 breast), 1 lb. of hamburger and 1 package of pork loins (4 pieces). We are still in good shape and I haven't had to go to the store for anything yet. The only item we seem to be low on right now is milk which I will pick up on Friday before the weekend.

$50 Free at Walmart and $28.48 in Free Groceries

March 2nd, 2008 at 02:53 pm

So the DH and I sat down to do the March budget. We take our current checking balance, add in potential income and then minus out all the debts; including my DH's medical bills and gas for work. We didn't factor in his habitual convenience store stops or cigarettes, he said he is going to stop smoking this week; he's on the pill and chewing the gum so we will see (as I write this he has gone to the store; hmmmm must be a cigarette run, not a good sign). Our bottom line is that we are about $1,500 short to pay all the bills this month and I was given a $300 grocery budget to work with. So we will figure it out even if we have to push a few things into April or borrow from the DS account (I don't really want to touch that).

So I had applied for some ebay bidding tool on line; it came and had a free offer for $50 in walmart gift cards to do a free trail membership in a savings club; which I joined for the trial period and then cancelled before I was charged a fee. So I filled out all the paperwork sent it out, it came back and had another process of filing out more paperwork with my savings club account number; I filled it out and sent it in and I received two $25 Walmart cards totally free. I wonder how many people just don't take the time.

So DH and I go to Walmart to pick up paper products; cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and eggs; that's right eggs are $2.78 for 18 eggs at Walmart; best deal in town. I further bought a 3 lb. block of cheddar cheese, some dish clothes and face clothes and a few cans of veggies and some salsa. My bill comes to $61.69. $11.69 over the budget so it gets taken from my grocery account.

So now I have to plan the family meals to stay within my budget of $300.00; I assess my current supplies and what is in the freezer before I go. I go to Shaw's and buy three packages of chicken breast (this is usually two meals from each package for us) sales price is $1.99 per pound; I buy a large package of hamburger that I will divide up into three servings to make lasagna; chili and shepards pie out of. I picked up other items including fresh fruit, veggies and canned products, my bill came to $138.68 after my Shaws discount of $28.48; so now I have used $150.37 from my $300.00 budget and I have gotten $78.48 in groceries free.

As I assess my situation; I know that doing bulk shopping on paper products and laundry supplies and all other groceries through the months gives me extra for times like this when we need to sharpen the pencil. I'm set for the month. I generally shop at BJ's once a month for the bulk items; I won't need to go there this month because we have not used up many of the products we bought the last few times.

Now I have many pieces of meat in the freezer to work with; a ham, a broiling chicken, two packages of pork lions, five servings of hamburger; six packages of chicken breast (1.99 a lb), six pizza's, A beef roast, a 2 lb. sirlion steak which was purchased at $1.99 a pound, 4 lbs. of butter; bag of pecans; bag of walnuts; bag of sliced almonds; 4 loaves of bread; 1 package of bagels; a bag of hamburger rolls; frozen french fries; a bag of stir fry veggies; a bag of broccoli florets; bag of frozen peas and mixed veggies; a 4 lb bag of mozzeralla cheese, a 3 lb. bag of shredded cheddar cheese.

I have stock piled 8 cans of corn, peas, green beans, kidney beans, cubed tomatoe pieces, 2 cans beets, 2 cans of asparagus pieces; 5 cans of tuna fish, 3 jars of tomatoe sauce, 2 cans of black olives; a liter of olive oil, 2 bags of dried peas and beans.

Regarding baking supplies and spices; everything I need and more; flour, sugar, baking powder and soda; baking cocoa, oatmeal, corn meal, bread crumbs.

Starches include a 10 lb. bag of potatoes, 3 lbs. of angel hair and a 5 lb. bag of rice and a package of lasagna noodles and a 24 package case of chicken flavored roman noodles.

I have about six bananas, 4 apples, 4 peaches, a bag of 10 Florida fresh tangerines for $2.99 and a lb. of grapes for fresh fruit and I have individual servings of about 8 cups of fruit cocktail and one can of pineapple slices and a jar of cherries.

I got two bags of packaged salad mix for the price of one and I still had a head of romaine lettuce; five green peppers, fresh sliced mushrooms and a cucumber. I have a bulk bag of gourmet croutons too and plenty of salad dressings. The problem I have with those bag salads is you have to eat them very quickly after you open them. These will probably last a couple of weeks.

My husband is a diet coke fanatic so I bought 4 - 24 can packs of diet coke for $23.96 that figures out to about .40 cents a can; huge savings and it should keep him out of the stores. I had recently purchased a 3 lb. bulk package of granola bars and a bulk package of 24 servings of Activa yogurt so he will take a six pack of the yogurt and enough granola bars for the week. We pack his lunch from leftovers from the night before so he shouldn't have to buy lunches. So I think I have plenty to work with to stay in budget.

This is looking pretty good so it looks like I'll just have to pick up things like milk, coffee creamers and possibly a few ingredients for things I make.

I may get to save some of the $300 to apply toward other things. When I shopped yesterday I also got a $5.00 coupon off my next time shopping at Shaw's and $3.00 off my favorite bottle of wine. So $8.00 already to save when I go to the store again.

It was a great day and we'll see what I can do with this to make 30 meals for the evenings. We also eat light for breakfast, a toast and egg; or bagel and yogurt and coffee. For lunches we eat leftovers; there are always plenty of them and if not; open a can of tuna and make a sandwich or have a package of roman noodles and add some leftover chicken to it or veggies!

I'll make my first week dinner list and post it tomorrow with meals starting today.

What is next? I know I can!

February 29th, 2008 at 05:06 pm

I'm still saving for my Debt Settlement and the creditors are still calling. I borrowed $28,000 from my 401k plan and I'm getting back a tax refund of $6,500 plus $900 from the stimulus package. I still have a car to sell and hope to get at least $6,000. My car is going into the garage to be repaired and the owner of the garage is also a car dealer and he said he would sell the car for me and charge a $500 commission. The car is a 99 BMW Convertible and I had a new roof put on it last year, they didn't put a new rubber on the roof and it leaked and rotted my passenger leather seat. So I need a new seat cover and need a new rubber in the new roof before I can sell it. Otherwise, the car is fully restored with new paint and etc., should be a good buy for someone and hopefully it will sell.

So if the car sells the total savings would be $41,400. If I do not sell the car I will only have $35,400. I had hoped I could save additional funds, but so far I have not had any luck putting extra money away because my income is still too low.

The total credit card debts I have left are about $75,000 with the interest and late charges. Even if I could settle at 50% ($37,500), I'm short without selling the car. I'm still hopeful I can do this. The creditors are telling me that I am not eligible yet, which leads me to believe I have to wait possibly to 120 to 180 days before they will settle. Most of the creditors have been very nice and understanding; everyone but Discover who calls six times a day and they are so rude when I talk to them. They are now acting differently though, the other day the guy was very short with me and I just told him my only option would be to settle and I'm waiting until I'm eligible. He said, "okay, good bye". Made me think that they do have a time frame and I'm not there yet.

Regarding the housing market, the month of February was the worst month I have had in the last 8 months. The interest rates went up and housing sales are down. I sure hope this turns around soon; as it is, it looks like I may have to pay my mortgage payments out of my debt settlement money because I didn't earn enough money this month to make the mortgages.

Overall, I have some positive days and then I have the bad days. I think that once I settle with another creditor, maybe I will feel that their is a light at the end of this tunnel. Until then I'm reading every positive book I can find and I'm not saying "I think I can", I'm saying, "I know I can".

Think Positive - your way out of debt.

February 24th, 2008 at 01:13 pm

I have been reading a few books lately, with all this time on my hands, "The Secret", "The Total Money Makeover" and "The Success Principles" and they all elude to how your thinking can bring about your financial position.

If I reflect on my life, it is apparent that my positive thoughts did bring me to places I never dreamed possible. Although, I am in a serious financial down right now, I know in my mind that this is a temporary state for me, I know that I will work my way out of this and from what I have learned here, this will not happen in my life again. The giant sucking sound has finally quieted and I'm learning a lot of important things, like the word "no".

One of the biggest things I have learned is that "it's not the hard times that will get you, it is the good times". Just living and doing everything I wanted to do for myself and others and not thinking about the "what if". That is why I am here.

This experience has also given me time to write and I've been doing a lot of that. Working in the finance industry for over 22 years, I know about credit and how banks work, know about credit reports and how to fix them, know about many people who have settled their debts, know many people working with debt management companies and many who have filed bankruptcy. I have assisted thousands of people through the years with their credit issues by giving them information and form letters to fix their problems. All free just to help people so that someday they could buy a home and be bank worthy. I have clients I have spent years with helping them finally get into a position to buy a home.

In the last four months I have spent a lot of time thinking about starting a side business for credit repair, settlement education and other alterntives to give people the tools to handle their own problems. I've consulted with the banking and insurance commission a few times, talked to an attorney about the business and I have wrote a manual that is already over forty pages long. I hope to use my experience and the experience of my clients (all anonymous), as examples with solutions.

While going through this process I noticed a lot of predatory companies who thrive on naive people who don't understand that they don't need third parties to handle their debts and etc. In my research I did find a few companies that seemed legitimate for people who just don't have the confidence to handle their finances on their own, but it took a lot of research. I'm afraid that many people panic and don't take the time necessary to find the right company. If a person has a true hardship they can deal with their creditors and the creditors actually prefer it that way. A person just has to have enough confidence and education to know how to handle their situation.

In the state I live, debt settlement companies are not allowed, however, educating people is. I could have seminars and sell my manual with standard form letters and etc. to help clients handle their own credit issues. They could then consult with me for an additional fee which I would put on a sliding scale based on income and need.

With the new bankruptcy laws, people don't know all their options. I think this could be a very helpful service and I would interested it others thought it would be as well?

Wearing a Skirt ... Car Repair Ripoff

February 19th, 2008 at 01:27 pm

My DH's Ford truck would not start in the yard last week, he tried to boost it and it still did not start so he called the tow truck to tow it to the garage. The tow guy tells DH, "I can fix it and I will give you a good deal and get it done quick, I will replace spark plugs, change oil and filters too, probably all it needs". Well, we all want it done quickly don't we? So DH authorizes him to repair it - so he calls the next day at noon and they say, "Yep, have her ready". So DH goes to pick it up after work and guess what? They were so busy towing that they didn't have time to finish fixing it, but they changed oil, filters and plugs; complete tuneup and that didn't work so they think it is a very serious problem; "new fuel pump". DH is not happy, says a few things about their service and leaves shop.

Next day Tow guy calls me, "Ms. XXXX I realize your DH was upset, I know vehicles and I don't do repairs that aren't required, I'm not like that so you want me to fix the fuel pump, I can't find one today, but I can have it by tomorrow morning, nobody has got one?" I tell him my DH has a cell phone; call him. DH has in the meantime been making several calls to the Ford dealership to find out about the fuel system of the truck - he was advised there is a relay switch and a fuel module going into the tank that could be malfunctioning. Fuel pump cost $370, plus hours of labor at $45 an hour, because they have to take the tank off. So DH calls back the tow guy and ask him if he checked the relay switch, tow guy advises, "this truck ain't got one" (hmmmmm), then he ask him if he checked the fuel module - tow guy says, "I was just about to do that". DH tells him to tow it to Ford Garage!!!

So twenty minutes after the truck arrives at Ford Garage they call to say it's the fuel module ($65.00) and it will take a couple hours of labor. So DH authorizes the repair. He then calls tow guy to get the bill on plugs, filters and oil change (towing was paid by AAA), tow guy says SIX HOURS labor and parts; $440.00 - DH is through the roof now ... he takes the weekend to think about it and calls tow guy back and says, "I'm a fair man and I want to pay you, but I will not be screwed by you because you didn't get to replace a fuel pump that didn't need replacing, so what is it going to be? I have checked with Ford and they say you couldn't have more than THREE hours labor and that is pressing it ... tow guy stutters and agrees to the three hours of labor and reduced the bill.

I'm so glad I had a husband to deal with this ... I would have gotten screwed if it were me I would have said, "Okay, do the work and my bill would have been over $1,000 and I would have paid it". I know because this has happened to me, once to the tune of $5,000 because the mechanic said I didn't have a problem when a read light came on; says its just a bad sensor, then my transmission goes because my oil pump was gone, no oil circulating (I had a big problem) - he gets a used transmission and puts it in and doesn't check a piece of plastic in the pistons and starts the engine and bends the pistons so then it has to go to a machine shop to fix the pistons and they made me pay for it ... I was three months without a car ... it was awful!! I didn't have a husband and I was wearing a skirt.

Can anyone else relate?

The Kitchen is Done!

February 17th, 2008 at 07:15 am

It has been approximately three weeks, but for less than $200 - we painted our kitchen cabinets and added new brass hardware. I love the new look and it has brightened the kitchen up.

We had a dinner with 12 people today for DH's birthday - everyone was very complimentary about the cabinets and they could not get over how much it changed the look of our kitchen. I was going to add a new counter top for another $900 later on, but everyone said just leave it the way it is, they thought the kitchen as is would sell.

I have lived in this house for 25 years, it is going to be hard to leave when I sell, I raised all my children here and my nieces and nephews and are sad I'm selling too, a lot of memories here, but it will be nice to be able to do something different. Maybe when I get through this debt mess I could move south and get out of all this snow!

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