I've mentioned in the past that I'm making continuous efforts to save money and live within my means, but I haven't shared my latest and greatest ventures in penny pinching in a while. I think it's worth sharing one very important thing:
Since August 2011 I am credit card free!!
How did I get the credit cards to a zero balance? That's another part of the story. See, I had felt like I was living within my means, but there were costs coming up that I couldn't always foresee, such as car repairs and vet bills and LIFE. Instead of planning for those and budgeting carefully, I was just using a credit card to make up the difference. Slowly but surely, I accumulated more debt than I ever imagined I would, and I was drowning in worry every month.
Finally, last summer, I decided to take action. First, I got hold of my finances, figured out where I was, and put together a full workbook of spreadsheets to balance my budget and give myself a clear picture of where my money was going.
Without great detail, because I'm cautious that way, let's just say I had access to a sum of money that would pay off the credit cards and give me just one thing to pay back with lower interest each month. I was able to pay both cards in full, which felt great, and haven't used them since.
Now the fun part -- KEEPING myself from using them.
Actually that's not so hard, but it does require me to watch every penny, as well as account for where the money is all going before the next paycheck. Each month I typically have to "borrow" from savings to make the house payment, but within 2 days I always pay it back and am able to maintain an emergency fund in my savings account. (Per Dave Ramsey's advice -- I love that guy!) Granted it's not always fun to be down to the bare bones, and sometimes the kids and I daydream about being able to take a trip or go out to dinner at a great place, but for the most part we're making it work. In the midst of paying the bills and paying off the loan, we manage to enjoy a few meals out at less expensive places, and I've still been able to buy them winter clothes, too. Nobodies starving or freezing!
I admit there are times when I catch myself thinking I could use a card "just this once." But I always slap myself out of it and haven't made that mistake once. If I can't pay cash for it, I don't need it!
One thing to note: I do pretty well financially, and all of my money concerns point at one thing -- childcare. I've done the math, and nearly a quarter of my after tax income goes to childcare for my wonderful kids. And that's okay! It's totally worth it! But it's nice to know that they'll get older, and eventually that part of my budget will change, and I won't have quite the worries that I do now. There is a light at the end of the poor tunnel!
What I look forward to is the day I can call Dave Ramsey on Debt Free Friday and yell, "I'M DEBT FREE!!"