I was thinking this morning that this blog's first anniversary must be getting close. I was a little surprised, when I checked to see how many days I have left to compose some kind of year-in-review post, that TODAY is my blogiversary!
While this blog is a place for me to share recipes and homemaking/frugality tips, when I started the blog a year ago, it's main purpose was to help keep Shane and me accountable as we work toward becoming debt free.
We've made some progress toward debt reduction in the past year, and I truly believe that "going public" with our goals has made a positive difference. It's difficult to run up credit card debt or engage in reckless spending when you're reporting all you do to the entire blogosphere. It would be embarrassing as well, I imagine.
Now, I'll be the first to say, though, that we could have done better. We could have paid off the van by now. It very clearly could have happened, but we chose to spend in other ways.
Let me explain. You see, the arrangement in our marriage is that Shane makes the money and I spend it. OK, let me rephrase that. Shane makes nearly all the money and I manage it. Meaning I allocate our income to our various budget categories and do my best to keep spending below those allocations. I pay the bills. I move money to savings. I do all of the food shopping and most of the household shopping. Basically, I make most of the decisions on what gets spent where.
This isn't to say that Shane and I are locked into these roles. I do bring in some money, averaging about $300 a month. It's not much, but it helps. And Shane is always aware of what's going on with the bank account, how we're doing on spending, where we need to be watchful, etc. There are no secrets...no covert stashes of money and no money spent by one of us without the other knowing it. And speaking of spending, Shane does do his share of it, but it's mostly money spent for home improvement projects.
Although, as I said, we are not locked into our roles when it comes to finances, it's sometimes hard to step out of them. So when we received the small windfall from the lawsuit over Shane's dog bite, close to the same time we received our stimulus rebate check, it was very difficult for me to NOT want to put all of those funds toward our van loan. Had we done so, the van would be paid off by now.
At the same time, it was difficult for Shane to NOT see funds available for home improvement projects. Projects that needed to be done and/or would make our home lives much more convenient.
Had he wanted to spend the money on frivolities (insert your definition of frivolous spending here), I'd have argued my case. But how could I argue with needed home improvements. After all, it was Shane, not me, who took the dog bite that kept him from working for 9 days. It was he who dealt with the lawyer and insurance companies. I felt it was only fair that he decide how we'd spend the money.
So, much of the year -- the last six months, anyway -- has been an exercise in agreeing to disagree and in compromising. I've mentioned before that I don't regret spending on home improvements. I just wish the van was paid off, too.
Having said all of that, we didn't do so badly over the past year. Here's the recap:
- We paid off a small loan of $600 from Shane's dad.
- We paid our 2007 property taxes without having to put them on a credit card.
- We paid for all of our 2007 Christmas spending without having to put any on a credit card.
- We were in a bind needing tires for Shane's truck and financed them on our Sam's Club card at 12 months 0% interest. We made two monthly payments, then were able to pay the debt in full with our tax refund.
- We paid off our credit card debt of $1600.
- We have used our credit card since, to keep separate some of Shane's work-related expenses, but paid the balance in full once he was reimbursed for those expenses.
- We purchased two used vehicles for their fuel efficiency. While one didn't work out for us, we didn't lose any money on it, and we were able to buy both vehicles with cash.
- We made a cash purchase of a used pop-up tent camper. While we've only had time to use it four times, we may still get another camping trip in this season and plan to use it quite often next season.
- Our credit has improved enough that we were easily able to refinance our home from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage with a decent interest rate. While our mortgage balance is now higher than it was a year ago, we have the peace of mind knowing that our interest rate won't increase.
- We have funds earmarked for this Christmas and will not have to finance any of our purchases.
- We have funds earmarked for our automobile property taxes and will not have to finance them. (Our real estate property taxes are now escrowed from our mortgage payment.)
- We have paid all medical bills without using our credit card (including those that were outstanding pending the dog bite settlement) . This includes dental, optical and veterinarian bills.
- We have paid down our van loan from $17,500 to $13,000. We are slightly ahead of schedule getting it paid off.
- We have erected privacy gates on either side of the front of our house. They are done pending the purchase of some latches that Shane is having trouble locating.
- We installed a much needed sump pump in our basement.
- We purchased a year-old 12' x 16' foot Tuff Shed for an amazing price of $750 from someone whose Homeowner's Association made him get rid of it. The catch? We had to partially disassemble it (done) and move it to our home (done) to reassemble (not done yet).
- We have purchases about 2/3 of what we'll need to remodel our bathroom.
- We had new brakes, front and rear, put on our van and paid the bill with cash.
- We have amassed a savings of $2000. It isn't much, but it's a start.
- On a personal/relationship front, I went back to work for a while to help the bottom line, and we quickly realized that for our family, me being at work outside the home doesn't work. We learned something very important about our family dynamics and what we desire as a couple and as a family.
So, we've done OK. Not great, but some progress has been made. I'm certain some if it wouldn't have been made without the blog and it's attached sense of disclosure and accountability.
I want to thank all of you who read here, whether you're here regularly, occasionally or are just visiting this once. I'm not sure if it's the financial accounts or the recipes that bring you here, (my stats say it's the Amish Friendship Bread and my opinion on the Green Bags that bring most of you here) but whatever the reason, I'm glad you are here.
Year Two starts tomorrow!