Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happiness can be yours for the bargain price of $800 a month!

When Bear and I first got together, our relationship moved very quickly. We had our first date in the middle of November, he first asked me to marry him at Christmas, I moved in with him the following March. The same spring I moved in with him, we started the arduous process of combining our finances. One of the things that became clear to me early on was that Bear was in a lot of financial trouble and that it wasn't his fault. You see, Bear's mother passed away when Bear was 18, after a long battle with cancer. Because she had been sick for so long, Bear had been forced to work full time as well as go to school full time just to make ends meet. It is tough to make ends meet, however, so after his mother's death Bear was stuck with a pile of past due bills. We talked a lot about the bills he had in collections, and how he couldn't get a loan to pay them off because they had ruined his credit score. My credit was excellent, however, so we hatched a plan for me to take out a $10,000 dollar loan and pay off most of his debt and a bit of mine as well. The loan was for three years and had a monthly payment amount of $351.52.

We have been paying that amount each month for nearly our entire relationship. It was supposed to be paid off this summer, but due to life getting in the way (doesn't it always?), we are a few months behind. This loan has become a pain in our collective ass. We want more than anything to get the frigger paid off so we can put that money towards other things.

Last week while Bear and I were both not working (his last week of layoff, my Feb. vacation), we hatched a plan. A budget that will get the loan paid off in August, just one month later than originally planned. It means, however, that instead of paying #351.52 a month, from March to August we will be paying $800 a month.

Eight hundred dollars a month.

Holy Shit.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that we found that much money in our budget to throw at our debt. I didn't realize we had that much left over after bills are paid. On the other hand, though, it makes things *very* tight for us for the entire spring and most of the summer months. It means fewer camping trips and cookouts, fewer yarn and fiber purchases, fewer adventures in the world together. I'm slowly becoming accustomed to this, but it hasn't been easy. I know that this is important and that we are doing what's best for us. But I am going to need a lot of help in putting my debit card away for the next six months. A lot of help. Any ideas for things we can do on the cheap?


Fox In Detox said...

I did "Stove top popcorn and a movie night at home" on Saturday nights for almost a year. Saved me a ton of money on going out, and friends were willing to participate, as well as host on occasion.

Alice said...

Wow! I admire both of you for not ingoring your obligations, for figuring out creative ways to end your debt and for figuring out a way to more than double your payment to get it out of the way. :) I know it will be hard these next few months, but the relief you feel once you are free of that obligation will be LIFE-CHANGING. I have been there (circumstances a little different, the stress of paying off debt the same). I think you first should start dreaming big about what you want to do with that extra $350 (or even $800!!) a month that will be yours in six months! House stuff?? A trip?? A new car?? I think if you start visualizing what you can do with that money first; it will help you stick to the budget and may be make it less painful. As far as extracurricular stuff in the meantime:
* Could you do a yarn-swap with other knitters? Maybe give some yarn you're not using for some they're not using...just to give you some variety?? Kinda like a bookswap?
*Could you sell anything you knit for some extra pocket change...perhaps to buy more yarn??Ebay? Esty?
*How about a yard/gargage sell this spring? It could help you clean out the house and bring you some pocket change??(Or, again, sell some stuff on ebay)
*Use public library for books.
*Buy generic food vs. name brand. It really does make a difference on your grocery bill.
*Find buy one/get one free night a local restaurants. Or your and bear could go and split an entree.
*Hiking (in state parks) or biking
*Could you cancel cable (I know it seems impossible, but I did it and actually liked my life better!), additional cellphone or landlines, internet service (maybe you could use internet at school??)--just for 6 months until you paid off your loan. Sometime our "extras" add up to alot!
*Try setting a limit for what you can spend each week; take that much out of your account and use cash only. It helps tremendously.
*Sell back used books.
*Pay bills on wasn't always easy for me either, but when I didn't have late-fees mounting up; it actually made the bills a lot cheaper.

I can't wait to hear other ideas. I think this is advice everyone can use during these hard economic times.