Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updates on School, Work, and Finances..

My first session of school (part 1 of the first semester) is done on Monday! That's 2 classes out of the way. Next week I start 2 brand new classes! So far my grades have been great, though I'll have to wait and see what sort of grades I get on my final projects for these 2 classes.

I also changed my major. I had been working towards an Administrative Assistant degree so that I could get a job as a secretary. However, the more I research this type of job, the more I realize that this field generally does not require a degree, only a high school diploma. So why am I paying so much money and wasting so much time to get a degree I won't even need? So, I changed my major to Medical Administrative Assistant. This way, I'm still doing work I want to do, but it will be in the medical field which does require an education, and I believe there are more opportunities in the medical field. I am now much more excited about school, as I do find medicine very interesting.

My job at Subway is going well, I've been there almost a month now. Actually I just got off the phone with my manager a little while ago and she was begging me to change my availability to work a few day shifts a week. She sees me as a very strong employee and wants me there during her busy lunch shifts. I find that to be a compliment, plus, working a few day shifts will get me more hours, and more money! I just have to find someone willing to watch my kids for me on those days, who won't charge me my entire paycheck!

I've not yet found a clerical position that I've been looking for in order to gain experience. I haven't given up, though I have lost a bit of steam when it comes to searching. I do look on occasion, but probably no more than once a week. I still think a clerical position would be helpful, even though I am going into the medical field now. I feel that having clerical experience of any sort will be beneficial when I begin searching for a medical administrative position.

As far as our finances go, our tax money is now basically gone, but I still feel really good about how we've spent it. We paid off a lot of old debts that have been hanging over our heads (though we still have a lot more debt we need to pay). We did make a few unnecessary purchases, but that is bound to happen regardless. Unlike last year, we did use a good portion of our tax money to catch up and get ahead on many of our current bills, that is a load off our minds! I used every dime of the money I received for selling my old Durango to put towards our cellphones.. so now we've paid for about 6 months worth of cellphone service, and we still plan on making monthly payments so that hopefully we will not owe money on our phones during the months of November and December, so we can put that money towards Christmas. As I said, I feel really good about this right now. It's amazing what a wonderful feeling you get from being smart with your money.

As far as my plan to use my paychecks towards savings and debts.. well I'm still running into a dead end in that area. I've not yet been able to open a bank account. A couple of old debts I had were stopping me, as they showed up on a credit reporting agency called Chex Systems. This is specifically for bad bank accounts. We had 2 old bank accounts that closed out with a negative balance. I've since paid them both off, but it takes time to remove my name from the Chex Systems. So now I'm just waiting for that to clear up. In the meantime I'm doing my research on various banks. I'm very careful to find a bank that offers totally free checking, and it's amazing how many banks claim to have totally free checking, but also a list of fees associated with their totally free checking account. Many expect a specific number of transactions per month in order not to be charged a maintenance fee, or they require a minimum balance. The bank we currently use for our joint checking account has a maintenance fee if you do not have money direct deposited into the account at least once a month. I had thought of opening my separate accounts there, but there is  no grace period for not having direct deposit, so for at least the first month I'd be charged a fee until I set up the direct deposit. I just wish banks would stop calling it totally free checking if it's not really totally free!!

I'd also like to find a savings account that offers a decent interest rate on a low minimum balance. So many banks want you to maintain a minimum balance of $100 or $300 on a basic savings account. I'm working part time for minimum wage.. it would take me months to come up with $300, and I did not want to sink my entire paycheck into a savings account, only about a quarter of each paycheck... that will take some time to come up with that kind of money!

So, while I'm waiting for my name to be removed off the Chex Systems, I'm just cashing my paychecks and hiding the cash in a pocket of my wallet, and doing my best not to touch it. So far so good as I'm highly motivated to use it the way I said I would.. for savings and debts!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feeling so good right now!

So we got our federal tax returns back on Friday and our state returns today. Last year I couldn't tell you what we did with all our money.. we basically blew it all on dumb stuff. I think we spent about half of it on eating out everyday until the money was gone!

This year we were a lot smarter with our money, and I'm very proud of us! Well, mostly me, hubby did have trouble reigning in his spending desires. He kept promising the kids he'd buy them any toy they wanted and we'd go fun places and eat at expensive restaurants. All the while I just wanted to put all the money towards bills and other important things, and he kept getting frustrated that I didn't want him to spend any of it on fun stuff. Obviously we both need to find a happy medium here.

We had a few main goals. I need a new vehicle, hubby needs to get his car fixed, and I need about $2,500 worth of dental work (that's after insurance). Those three things have been accomplished! I bought a van which we're putting on the road today, and I'm selling my car for $1,500 (hopefully). We ordered the parts hubby needs for his car, and we just need to save a couple hundred to have the parts put on. I'm going to the dentist today and have saved the money I'll need for that.

So, important stuff: check!

Needless to say we do get a very large chunk of cash from taxes due to our 5 children and hubby's low income. So, we still had a bit left over after taking care of the important things, and I'm very pleased with the way we chose to spend it.

First, we bought a laptop. We were leasing a laptop from the company hubby works for and paying about $100 a month for it. We looked into how much it would cost to pay it off early, and it was still over $500. So instead we went to Best Buy and got a new laptop for less than $400, and we're returning the leased laptop. We just saved ourselves $100 a month!

We went out and bought cellphones.. sad to say we did not have cellphones until now. We bought them last year but then discovered we couldn't afford the monthly payments, so they were shut off. We've been without phones since about May or June of last year. To ensure that doesn't happen again, we plan on taking the money I get from selling my Durango and putting it all on the cellphone bill.. basically paying the majority of the year in advance. This way we can pay around $50 a month (to make sure we don't have a full month's bill around Christmas this year) and if we can't afford it one or two months we are basically already paid. Smart thinking!

We also caught up all our current bills, something we didn't bother doing last year! On top of that I even paid off a few old debts. First, I paid Bank Of America. We had an account with them years ago which we overdrew then closed the account (all accidental of course, we were just really stupid with our money). Having this debt was stopping us from being able to open a new bank account with a decent bank. So that's paid off so I can now open a savings account at any bank I want, I might even open a second checking account too just to save towards paying more debts.

I received a couple of settlement notices from some other old debts. One was a credit card hubby had years ago, which had grown to over $700 from interest (it was a $200 limit!). They offered to settle for under $300.. needless to say I jumped on that opportunity! That is paid! I also got a settlement offer from another bill that was over $2,000, and they're willing to settle for just about $1,000. Paying that too!

Then, to make hubby and the children happy, we did do a little bit of fun spending. We did go out to eat, though only once and not at a super expensive restaurant. Then, we let the kids each pick out something for themselves. My daughter got a new Nintendo DS because her old one broke, my older two boys each picked out a video game, and the younger boys got a couple of toys. We also got them each some clothing. Nothing extremely expensive, most of what we picked out was already on clearance. Trust me it could have been so much worse! We'd almost debated getting a DS for the 4 year old (I do want to eventually) and we even debated getting the 13 year old his own cell phone (I'm not willing to have that monthly bill just yet!).

All in all I feel we were very smart with our money and did a lot of good, as opposed to what we could have done. It's amazing how good you can feel when you spend your money wisely!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don't Worry About Me

The last interview I went on was about two weeks ago. I didn't get the job. Nobody ever contacted me to tell me I didn't get the job.. I found out because they reposted the position on Craigslist. What a cruddy way to find out!

No big loss. I have the job at Subway which I started on Saturday. So far so good there, though I'm thus far only getting 10 hours a week. I'm hoping that will go up a little once I'm fully trained.

Of course I'm also keeping busy with my school work. I'm currently in Week 4 of my classes, which are only 7.5 weeks long.. so almost done there! I'm doing very well, my grades have so far been in the 90's.

Enough with the recap.. let's hear something new. I have another interview tomorrow! I went on to Craigslist again looking for part time clerical work, and it's not easy to find. Most office jobs want full time employees, and I just don't think I can commit to a full time job at the moment, but I do want a part time clerical job for the experience.  So I found this one, the ad said the job will be about 25 hours a week. The downside is that the pay is barely above minimum, and the drive will probably be about 45 minutes each way, and I don't know what hours they're looking for. It's quite possible it could interfere with my current evening job, which I'm not willing to sacrifice at the moment. But, I will just have to go to the interview and see.

Well, a lot of people keep telling me they feel I'm taking on too much. Two part time jobs, full time schooling, and five kids. Hmm.. how is that too much? :)

Truth is, I don't know if it will be too much. As of right now it isn't. As of right now I only have the one part time job, and as I've said, that's only 10 hours a week. School doesn't take up too much time. I usually dive right in on Sunday and have all the school work done by Wednesday, leaving three days of nothing to do. So, if I were to get another job I'd just have to space the school work out a little more and perhaps not finish it all until Saturday. Thankfully Saturdays are the deadlines.. I have from Sunday morning until Saturday night to get all the school work done. No big deal.

If it does get too difficult to handle, there's always ways to cut down the stress. I could cut down my hours if need be, or quit one of the jobs if I felt I couldn't do them both. Obviously schooling will not be on the chopping block, though after this session I'm done with Math which actually is taking up most of my time.

Either way, I don't see it being too much for me to handle. I see it being a vacation! I get to get out of the house and meet other adults and have conversations. I love that sort of stuff! The kids get to spend more time with their grandpa while I work in the evening, and grandpa loves it! He's been lonely ever since my mother in law died. When hubby gets home he has some one on one time with the kids, then sends them off to bed and has some time all to himself, which rarely ever happens when I'm home. I see it as win/win for everyone involved! Sure a day job will be a little different. Most of the kids will be in school, the little two will have to go to a sitter, and hubby will be at work so he doesn't gain from it. However, the day job is to get clerical experience, to make it easier for me to get a full time clerical position once I'm ready for it. Not to mention, the extra money will mean more towards my debts and savings, so we'll move out of here and into our own home that much sooner.

Yes, when I set my mind to something, I get tunnel vision. I see nothing but my goal, and rarely do I ever not achieve it unless I somehow lose steam. Well I'm not losing steam this time! I've gone through a lot of struggles in my life. I've set a lot of goals and typically have accomplished them all. My past success has shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to. This is no different. I've set my mind to changing my financial situation.. and gosh darn it that's exactly what I'm going to do, no matter how hard it gets!

So don't worry about me not being able to handle everything I'm putting on my plate. Don't worry about me taking on too much and burning out. That's just not going to happen. I'm going to do this. I'm going to succeed!