OK, so a long time ago, I promised to outline what we've been doing to decrease our chances of going bankrupt in the near future. I've been lazy, but here it is. It's long and probably pretty boring, but what else is new?
We've been seriously watching the credit cards. I mean duh, that's a no-brainer, but not just the spending. We very rarely even use them anymore. For example. I think we've used them for 1 thing (Rob's glasses) since Christmas. For over a year now, we call every card once a month and get the to-date balance. We can them compare with last month and see if we're making progress, or not. Hopefully the progress we make will be noticable enough to inspire us to keep it up. Speaking of which, it's time to do that today.
We have a Excel spreadsheet which lists all cards, balances, APRs, expriation dates for the offers (everything is currently at 0% rate. We have to transfer them to another 0% card before they expire), etc. Anything that might be relevant. We review it all carefully every month. We pay 0% interest on a 5 figure debt. So at least, our monthly payments are making some difference instead of being eaten by interest. It's worth it to get anohter card with a introductory offer to save the interest payemnts. It's made a huge difference.
We call the credit card companies often and get them to lower the standard APR. Right now it's not applicable, since we don't have balances on them, or not at that rate, at least. But if it ever becomes an issue, we can start at the lower rate, instead of at the jacked up one. Also, we cancel cards that are no longer useful.
We've been doing this for over a year now, and it's making a difference. But, not enough. So our next step was to watch every single cent we spend. We've been getting receipts for absolutely everything we can and for those we can't, we're writing it down. Also via Excel, I'm tracking where our money is going. We started this in December (bad time to start what with Christmas and all) and we're starting to get an idea of where we need to cut expenses. The bad thing is, there just isn't a lot of room to actually do any cutting. I spend too much on the kids. We spend too much on groceries. We buy too many batteries - but that can't be avoided. We spend too much eating at work. Junk food and lunches. Also eating out. These things we can actually cut back on.
For the last 2 months, we have brought our lunch to work almost every single day. We've added low cost stuff like soup and spagettio's (shut up, I like them) to our menu. We've stopped buying most of our water from the vending machines. The water in fountains here sucks, so we have to buy it, but we started buying it at the grocery store and bringing it instead. That makes it $0.18 instead of $0.65. I drink at least 3 of them a day (plus what Rob drinks), so it eventually adds up.
In order to cut our grocery bill, we started making a supper menu each month. The more times we visit (the evil) Wal-mart, the more we spend, so if we can just stay out of the store, we'll save money. By planning a menu, 1) we're able to do at least 2 weeks of shopping at once 2) we eat healthier 3) we can plan enough so that we can take leftovers for lunch the next day. Plus, sometimes things come up and we don't eat what we had planned. When that happens, we can just carry forward our meals we didn't eat til the next month. It's kind of a pain in the ass to plan, but it saves money. As an added bonus, it saves a lot of time. Where previously, we'd stand around for an hour and ask each other what we wanted to eat, but then it was too late to actually cook anything or thaw something out, so we'd just have pizza delivered, we can come home and look at the menu and turn the oven on if needed. We can thaw everything the night before and supper time is much less rushed and stressful. And we know ahead of time whether or not Ally will throw a fit about supper and will need extra time to be coerced into eating.
You wouldn't believe how much less you buy when you have to be accountable for it. Just the thought of having to read "KT vending" on my spreadsheet stops me from going there most of the time. I even didn't buy any girl scout cookies this year. (Alhtough I did buy valentine's day candy on clearance. yummy sugar...) Every dollar spent is a conscious decision. Or at least that's the theory. We're still working on the practice, but it's helping a lot. And really? talking about our money and handling it together leads to far less fights. We talk about it all the time, but we're not so stressed out that we argue about it as much. I don't feel like I'm doing it all with no help, and Rob doesn't feel like he's being kept in the dark. We even consolidated checking accounts. In the past 12 years we've been dating/married, we've never had a joint account.
Anyway that's it. It seems that the secret to making headway on your debt is to pay attention to what you spend. Who'd thunk it?