Monday, October 20, 2008

Good progress so far

It's been a little while since I've updated the debt counter in the right hand column of MSB. Last week we received the majority of our statements and I've compiled a list of what's been paid in full, what's been reduced substantially and what's been knocked out of the park.

I've also reexamined some of our more crucial finances for my own benefit. While I don't believe this is a catch all and it isn't exactly a super detailed look at the world of our personal finances I believe it sums up the recent past, present and near future fairly decently.

  • The Cards:

    • American Express: Amex is no more. The two accounts that have given us the most hardship and heart ache are now a thing of the past. Over the spring and summer we funneled well over $3,000 at our two previously delinquent American Express accounts. They are now paid in full and we have canceled our memberships.

      Good riddance.

      Our experience with Amex was a weird one. We were first contacted in regards to our Green card account. These ruthlessly trained outsourced folk in India with strange accents and very white names. They were extremely pushy, manipulative and very obviously trained to deal with deadbeats. We refused to deal with them, opting to ignore their calls and make out payments directly to Amex online.

      Amex blue was a wholly different story. Maybe because it's a better card, or our balance was substantially higher. We were contacted by a very polite gentleman 45 minutes away. He explained our options, what he could do and allowed me to feel like a respectable human being. Needless to say we made extra efforts to pay off this debt as soon as we could. Two completely different sides of the same coin. But I'm glad they're out of the picture.

    • Macy's: The Macy's card was a relic from our last spend happy Christmas. I used it to purchase a beautiful sapphire bracelet (that was subsequently lost) for the missus. This was paid off immediately after American Express was put to bed. It was our lowest balance account and allowed us to feel like we were really on a roll.

    • Lane Bryant: Our next lowest balance credit card. This will be the next one to go as soon as we can scrape together enough money to blow it out of the water. The balance is only a puny $238. We could in theory kill it anytime we want, but with winter coming we prefer to err on the side of caution and allow our bank account to remain fat, at least until the first snow.

    • Bank One: Our next lowest balance credit card. Standing at around $1,000 it probably won't last very long once we focus our attention on it. While the interest is fairly small in comparison to say, our Bank of America account we'll be happy to see it gone.

  • The Banks:

    • The Old: While our old bank offered the staple services that typically keep every day users happy (online banking, relatively plentiful branches and ATMs, etc) their customer service department handled an issue quite poorly and as such disenfranchised us as happy clients.

      Long story short it took an absurdly long time for a check to clear. Due to a web interface that was hardly clear, a single small check was bounced.

      The bank was kind enough to swallow half of the bill because of their murky web interface. But this occurred on an especially tight week. We have little to no margins. Their inability to reimburse us the full amount caused a chain reaction of bounced payments to rack up, leaving us with a lovely +$300 fee.

      Unsympathetic customer service representatives who refused to budge an inch on anything drove us off.

      The account is still active, but we've since moved to another bank. Once we're satisfied all is quiet our relationship will be terminated.

    • The New: We found lovely little credit union to handle all of our business. Their web interface is more secure, clearer and while their branches are relatively scarce they're not too out of the way for us.

  • The Funds:

    • His: I've experienced a raise in pay of about $4,000 to $5,000 from this time last year. I'm working a bit more, but it's for our best interest. We ultimately want to purchase our own home, so it's doubly important for me to remain focused on the prize. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) this additional income will be immediately funneled toward our outstanding debts.

    • Hers: The missus has made substantial career advancement and will make another in the new year. It's forced her out of the house the majority of the week and her job requires frequent air travel. But it's a thousand fold better than her previous occupation. Both in terms of enjoyment and monetary compensation. This increase in income should more than double the speed at which we pay off our debts.

  • The Cars:

    • His: We had to put some energy into it lately for it to pass an inspection. But thankfully the problem was due to a factory recall and it was fixed free of cost. We're at around 30,000 miles. Which means I've put about 23,000 on it in the two years I've had it.

      It's running fairly well. It gets decent gas mileage and gets me where I need to go. Payments are modest, but still have a long way to go.

    • Hers: We had to pump $400 into it not too long ago, due to a shot alternator. While this car is substantially older than mine, it's also much closer to being paid off. We're looking at paying it off within a year from today. This will free up $3,000 the following year, pending additional repairs.

  • The Future Bumps in the Road:

    • Taxes: There are only two things you cannot avoid in life; death and taxes. The only bump in the road that I can foresee is tax season.

      Due to my occupation I am required to pay my own taxes. This is great throughout the year as I receive my full paycheck with no Uncle Sam horning in on my action. This is bad in tax season, as I typically have to part with what I believe is a substantial amount of money.

      Last year was fine. I was only an independent contractor for a small portion of the year. What I had to pay was almost immediately off set by the economic stimulus package. This year will be a bit more difficult. I've worked a lot and made a lot.

      So Uncle Sam is going to be asking for a lot. This could reset our finances a substantial amount come tax time. We'll have to work at rebuilding our checking account so we can absorb the punch.
So, in short things are puttering along. We're moving at a respectable speed. Looking back on the progress we've made I'm proud of the amount we've grown and the sacrifices we were capable of making. Already we're far more responsible, fiscally conservative adults than we were just a year and a half ago. While it'd be nice to win the lottery, I'm no longer depressed about money.

It's just something that takes time, patience and a keen eye.


joan said...

congrats! we all know how much american express was bugging you guys!

Erin said...

Good luck!

Kyle said...

My grandfather could learn a lesson from you; with him it's always spend, spend, spend...

Of course, it would also help if he actually listened to us and actually seemed to be capable of understanding that keeping money is important.


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Debt Counter

Bank of America $4,580.18
Providian $5,460.80
Citibank $2,363.90
Capital One $1,270.63
Bank One $1,082.44
Sears $3,854.29
Best Buy $1,631.23
Lane Bryant $238.43
Total: $20,537.65


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