Sunday, May 22, 2011

Our Debt Free Adventure: Part 3

We took a long look at our variable expenditures. We realized that we were spending too much money buying crap for ourselves and too much money going out to eat. We decided to cut back. Below I've listed the variable expenditures we used to categorize our spending as well as a typical amount we would budget for them each month. I'm not saying we are wrong or right, but it worked for us. I've also included a little bit of an explanation for each.

  1. Groceries - $250/month. It was really, really hard to keep this one and usually resulted in "pantry surprise" meals at the end of the month.

  2. Gifts - $0-$100/month. Obviously it varied by what events were that month. Also, we didn't follow proper etiquette by how much Real Simple told us to spend on wedding gifts, so sorry about that.

  3. Entertainment - $20/month. Typically we would budget for going to the movies once a month.

  4. Clothing - $0-$200/month. Most months this was $0, but every 6 months or so we would buy some new clothes.

  5. Personal Budgets - $20/month. This was our personal blow money. We could spend it on whatever we wanted...and let me tell you $20 does not go very far in this day and age.

  6. Car Maintenance/Gas - $250/month. Pretty self-explanatory.

  7. Home - $50/month. Included home repairs as well as any small upgrades we wanted to do.

  8. Food Out - $100/month. Christine and I used this money for 4 dates/month, one for each weekend. $100 will net you 4 meals at your local Chili's. We also brought our lunches to work every single day to help save money there.

Our typical total variable expenses each month was around $800. This was allowing us to put about $1500-2000 towards the $60k. Throwing $1500 at a $60k debt will have it paid off in 3.33 years. $2000 in 2.5. Neither of those seemed fast enough for me, especially considering that we wanted to start a family in the next year and a half. I started thinking of other ways that we could up our income or save money. I brought up the idea of a part-time job again to Christine who now was on board after seeing how much we were paying in student loans. I began researching part-time jobs via Craigslist. I had heard that loading UPS trucks at night was a good part time job that paid well, but there were no centers in Austin. Dave Ramsey had always used the example of delivering pizzas in his talks, so I went down and picked up an application from the Domino's down the corner. I got cold feet and never even turned the application in. Then one day I saw a Craigslist ad for an opening for nights/weekends to deliver pizzas at Mr. Gatti's. I dropped by and filled out an application on the spot and the manager, seeing that I was an engineer, just kind of looked at me funny. I told him me and my wife were trying to pay off debt quick and ended up getting the job. I started delivering pizzas Friday and Saturday nights.

[A quick aside about the whole second job thing if you are an AMD employee. I ALWAYS prioritized work for AMD and there were multiple times where I called in to Gatti's saying I couldn't make it due to AMD. I did not clear it with HR (not sure if they allow it or not) and as of the writing of this blog post only one person at AMD knew about this, so I'm writing this in confidence that if by chance you read this you won't say anything. I don't see how it is any different than someone who has a photography business etc. on the side, but just wanted to throw out this disclaimer. If you've found your way to this blog it's because you follow Christine or myself on Facebook/Twitter, which means we are good enough friends anyway and I trust you. Thanks.]

My first day was March 26th, 2010 and I basically never looked back. I worked about 15 hours a week at Gatti's and would make anywhere from $15-$25/hour, which was netting us an extra $800/month!! To top it off, it was pretty relaxing work and went by extremely quickly. I was slightly worried about the miles I was putting on my car, but figured this was a short term activity, so no long term concerns there. I think the worst part about it was being away from Christine, who had to spend most of her weekends by herself.

In April, God really blessed us. Now, I'm definitely no prosperity gospel believer, but this is a pretty cool story. K-Love was having their pledge drive and Christine and I felt led to start donating monthly. We knew we were still in debt, but really felt God calling us to give. So we did. The next day I found out I was unexpectedly promoted to Senior Engineer and got a pretty substantial raise. It was an amazing blessing, and even though I don't believe in the prosperity gospel, it was really cool seeing God provide for us as we were being faithful in our tithes to our church and offerings to other outlets like K-Love.

So now we were able to put about $3,000/month towards the school loans. And the cool thing about the debt snowball was that each time we paid off a 5k or 10k loan, we would get an extra $50 or $100 from the old payment and we would use that payoff the other debts. The snowball continued to get bigger and we pushed full steam ahead.

We worked hard the rest of the year and saw that if we really skimped we could potentially be debt free in May of 2011 after selling some company RSUs and hopefully getting a bonus. The bonus came and we made our last payment on May 5th, 2011. We have been debt free for less than a month and it feels fantastic!!

I think the moral of the story is to encourage people and say that if we can do it, you can do it. We were blessed with a good income to start, but by picking up extra work, budgeting, and deciding to not buy unnecessary items, we were able to pay off our loans. I really recommend getting Dave Ramsey's "My Total Money Makeover" and reading through it. If you let it, it can change your life.

We are continuing to work on the baby steps. As of today, we are on baby step 3. Knowing how good it feels to be done with baby step 2, I can't imagine how great it will feel to be done with baby step 6. Maybe I'll write another blog post when we get done with that. ETA 2020.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and that it helped you in a small way.


Our Debt Free Adventure: Part 2

So here we are sitting in our unfurnished house and unpaid for cars thinking we had it all. Then the payments for the college loans started kicking in and I realized we made way too much money to be saving so little at the end of each month. I remembered seeing a Dave Ramsey video online sometime in 2009 and kept thinking it was pretty neat. It talked about car loans and if you pay yourself a car loan you can get free cars for life. Check it out here. So, at the end of 2009 I decided to do some research on this guy and found that he had a pretty cool radio show, and that he helped people get out of debt. Nice. I also found that he had a very simple process for getting people out of debt. Even better. It was so simple in fact, that it was broken down into his "baby steps." Ok, now I felt my intelligence was being questioned, but he's the millionaire, and I'm in debt so I'd thought I'd hear him out. Here are the baby steps I'm talking about:

  1. Get $1,000 in the bank as a starter Emergency Fund

  2. Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball

  3. 3 to 6 months of living expenses in savings

  4. Invest 15% of household income into retirement

  5. Fund children's college

  6. Pay off the house early

  7. Build wealth and give

They sounded pretty good to me, so I brought them up to Christine, who also liked the idea. To top it off Dave was a Christian whose ultimate goal was for people to use their wealth to help other people. He used taglines like "live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else", "sell so much stuff that the kids think they're next", and talked about doing crazy things like getting part time jobs to help get out of debt faster. I remember driving to St. Louis in the winter of 2009 and randomly asking Christine what she would think if I got a second job on the nights and weekends to help us get out of debt a bit faster. She was completely against the idea, but just because she didn't want me to not be with her during those times. I shelved the thought of a second job.

At the start of 2010, we were looking at:

  1. $2,000 to Texas Teachers - $400/month payment

  2. $4,000 for the Mazda 3 - $350/month payment

  3. $10,000 for the Ford Fusion - $275/month payment

  4. $60,000 to Sallie Mae, AES, Nelnet, among others - $650/month payment

For a grand total of $76,000 and $1,675 monthly payments! We decided to start working the baby steps. We had over $1,000 in the bank, so we started at baby step #2. We had some money sitting around in the bank, so we decided to just pay off Texas Teachers. Paying off that loan really helped teach me the importance of the debt snowball. Dave's debt snowball tells you to ignore interest rate, but to pay off your smallest loans first, so you can free up the monthly payment to add it to the next biggest loan etc. Texas Teachers was technically 0% interest, but it had such a short payback schedule we were paying $400 a month. By paying off that loan, we essentially took home $400 extra that we could allocate elsewhere. I sold some AMD stock that I bought before we got married taking a slight loss on it, which allowed us to pay off the Mazda. We took our first time homebuyer's credit and added $2,000 to it to pay off the Ford. We were lucky that we had saved money a bit earlier because I don't know how long we could have kept up $1,675/month payments.

That left us with $60,000 in loans with nothing in the bank, no savings (other than our $1,000 starter emergency fund), and no other tricks. So we went to work on our budget. We had kept a budget in google documents ever since we got married, but hadn't been super strict about it. We sat down and looked at the fixed monthly expenditures such as insurance, mortgage, tithe and looked at ways to save money on them. One of the easiest decisions to make was to cancel cable, which saved us $60 right there. We ended up picking up the $10 Netflix plan, so the net savings was really only $50, but still good. I also switched car insurance companies saving a few hundred dollars a year.

Our Debt Free Adventure: Part 1

** I am breaking up Eric's post into three parts. Please stay tuned for parts 2 & 3!**

This is Eric.

Hello loyal readers of the Brinkman family blog. Today I bring you a guest post on our story about getting out of debt. Over the past 16 months, Christine and I have paid off $76,000 by getting on the same page financially and creating and sticking to a budget (and also by not buying stupid stuff we didn't need.)

We'll start our story at the point where Christine and I got married which was in August of 2008. I knew she had school debt, but to be completely honest neither of us knew exactly how much she had. Additionally, when we got married, she had another year of school, so we didn't need to repay them at the moment anyway. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I brought about $5,000 of debt into the marriage that I owed on my car.

Halfway through the year through a bunch of circumstances, Christine decided that she'd like to teach instead of do children's ministry. We signed her up for Texas Teachers, an alternative teacher's certification program costing $4,000. At her graduation in the spring of 2009, we were blessed with a pre-K teaching job for Christine. Because we now had two incomes, we thought we needed to buy a house because, well, that's what people do when they get jobs, right? So we pretty much instantaneously got a realtor and began searching for a house. Additionally, sometime in the middle of the summer, the '94 Chevy Corsica that Christine brought into our marriage refused to not overheat driving it anywhere, so we traded that sucker in for $200 and picked up another $11,000 in car debt. Pretty good deal, huh? Oh, did I mention we STILL didn't know exactly how much school debt Christine had?

So, like good American dreamers, we bought a house (no, we don't have that paid off yet) carrying two car notes, paying off alternative teacher certification, and an unspecified amount of college loans. Since we didn't have to pay back those student loans for ~6 months after graduation, we figured we were set for the short term. Then we learned....$60,000 in school debt. Womp womp.

Let me take a break and talk about school loans for a second. Most financial counselors say that they are the best kind of debt because it is low interest and you can request deferences on the payments if you need to etc, etc. Now, I'm not a financial counselor, but here's my opinion on them. They suck. They are the absolute worst debt you can have. Why? Here's a few reasons:
  • College debt is completely unsecured. You can't sell back the knowledge in your mind if you get into a financial pickle to get rid of them. Contrast that with secured debt, like a house mortgage where you can always sell the house to pay back most, if not all of the debt.
  • College debt is traditionally heralded as low interest debt. I don't know what most people consider low interest, but of our 60k, about 40k of it was at the 8-9% interest mark. We had no loans lower than 5%.
  • This one won't apply to most, but if you were to ever declare bankruptcy (don't do it the Michael Scott way) you cannot bankrupt college loans. They will stick with you forever and ever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baby Bump Pics

I am 23 weeks and I feel like I have a basketball under my shirt. It is truly amazing how God has designed a woman's body to conform and adapt to have a baby grow inside her. Eric and I have done our best to document my growing belly. Check it out!

8 weeks

9 weeks

10 weeks

11 weeks

12 weeks

13 weeks

14 weeks
15 weeks

16 weeks

17 weeks

20 weeks ...we missed week 18 & 19

22 weeks

23 weeks

If you're like me and enjoy seeing the drastic change here it is...

Our baby girl is growing fast!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My First Mother's Day

I truly enjoyed my first Mother's Day as a mommy-to-be. After leaving a fabulous wedding of our friends, Eric stopped at HEB to get milk and cinnamon rolls. He was planning on making me the cinnamon rolls the next morning. He also surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers that came with a sample of perfume. We headed to bed with our Sunday all mapped out, and Eric stating that he felt like someone had punched him in his right eye.

My alarm went off at 7:30 and I got up to start the day. When Eric got up, his poor right eye was pink and swollen. Turns out, his so called "punched eye" developed into a stye. It looked terrible and he could barely see. Even so, he still manged to bake the cinnamon rolls and write in my Mother's Day card. After eating, I put myself in mommy mode and went out to get him medicine. I ended up taking care of my sweet husband the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure this isn't the last Mother's Day where one of my kids or husband will be ill.

Even though the plans went out the window, I still loved my first Mother's Day. I got to relax, finish a fabulous book, and go to Luby's for dinner. I love me some fried fish and mac n' cheese!
One of my favorite parts was Eric and I feeling our sweet little girl dance around in my belly and be in awe that in a few months we will be a family of three!

I am overjoyed to have the life God has blessed me with and I pray daily that I never take it for granted. I love the verse in the song, "Blessed Be Your Name" when it states, "every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise." My hope and prayer is that I will never stop praising the One who has blessed me abundantly.
Thank you Lord for choosing me to be a mom, but more so thank you for calling me to be one of your children.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday's List of Seven Random Things

1. Today Eric and I hope to be callers on the Dave Ramsey show. I have been dying to scream "WE'RE DEBT FREE!!" at the top of my lungs for the past 16 months.

2. Our good friend is getting hitched tomorrow. I am so excited to see our close friends and be able to catch up on what's been going on in their lives. I am also looking forward to dancing, wedding cake, and seeing our dear friends enter into an amazing covenant with the Lord.

3. It is awesome being a pregnant pre-k teacher. I have had three families offer me a lot of baby stuff: Swing, high chair, pack n play, and a bounce seat. Eric also has a coworker who is being so generous and giving us some great stuff too. I loving saving money so I am one happy mommy-to-be!

4. We are getting pretty close to our vacation and I am counting down the days! I am so ready for a few days of relaxing and enjoying one and one time with Eric.

5. I love the little things in life. For example, today my school cafeteria is preparing crunchy chicken legs, potato salad, and fruit. I didn't bring my lunch today so I could enjoy a wonderful hot meal. Let's be honest, between a turkey sandwhich and crunchy chicken legs...the chicken wins.

6. I shopped at Nordstrom Rack yesterday and bought a new dress. I'll be honest, I was hesitant to purchase the dress because it wasn't in my normal price range...but I did it. I will be wearing it to the wedding and hopefully show you some pics of it next week.

7. Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies and mommies-to-be!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Chicken

It's 9:30pm and I would love to hop into bed and read my book. But I am pushing myself to blog so I won't get back on the train of only updating the blog once a month.
So blog readers you get a yummy recipe. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and it's one of my favorites. It is featured on the Brinkman menu at least once a month. It's simple and the outcome is fantastic!

Crock Pot Chicken

3 cans of condensed soup (cream of chicken, mushroom, or celery)
2-3 frozen Chicken breasts
1 8oz container of sour cream
salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

1. Combine all three cans of soup and sour cream together. Add salt, pepper and garlic salt.

2. Place frozen chicken in crock pot.

3. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. If you have it on high, stir the mixture a few times.

4. When cooked place chicken and soup mix onto of rice or noodles.

I hope you try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What will she look like?

If you read back on my post on Monday I wrote some thoughts I sometimes ponder about the little girl growing in my belly. One of the thoughts I often think about is what will she look like.
These are some baby pictures of Eric and I. Maybe the photos will help me better visualize what some of her features might be?

We were pretty adorable kids, so I know she will not be lacking in the cuteness department.
I guess we will just have to wait till September to see what traits she gets from the both of us.

Ten on Tuesday

1. What is the weather like in your city today?
Chilly. It's in the low 50's and we are in the month of May...ridiculous. I am writing this on Monday night and I am in a hoodie and pj pants. I still felt cold so I made some hot chocolate. I'm pretty sure it's Spring, right?

2. Do you like the zoo?
I love going to the zoo. This past Valentine's day Eric surprised me and took me to the San Antonio zoo. I loved it! I would love to visit the San Diego zoo in the future.

3. Do you eat coconut?
I am not a fan of coconut or even the flavor of coconut.

4. Have you ever hammered a nail? Are you good at it?
I have hammered a nail and I am ok at it. I like Eric helping me because he is much better at leveling and making sure I don't put too many holes in the wall.

5. Does your family have a vacation destination that you visit often?
Evey year growing up we would go to South Padre Island and stay for a week. I can still remember the smell of the lobby to the condominium we stayed at. I would look forward to the trip every year. I have great memories there and hope one day I can take my kiddos there.

6. How many pillows do you sleep with?
Two, standard pillow and body pillow. My body pillow gets me through the night. I am tempted to get another one and put one on each side.

7. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Use the John. I probably use the John 3 times a night...not fun.

8. Will you send your kids to summer camp?
I would love to send my kiddos to summer camp. I worked at a Christian summer camp for two summers in a row. I learned and grew so much in my faith through serving as a girl's counselor.
I know my kids will benefit from it and let's be honest...mommy and daddy get a week off!

9. What do you put in your baked potatoes?
butter, cheese, and sour cream.

10. Did you take swimming lessons as a kid?
No, but I remember learning at South Padre Island on one of my family vacations.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's a Girl!

We have known our little bundle of joy is a sweet baby girl for the past month. We are so excited to meet her in September and get to know her little personality. So far I know she is a wiggle worm and is pretty modest (it took the Doc 15 minutes to get her to show us she was a "she"). I am thrilled to have a girl and look forward to teaching her so many things.
Here are a few things I daydream when I think about my baby girl...
- What color eyes will she have?
- Will she look more like Eric or Me?
- I can't wait to french braid her hair and buy bows for her.
- Will she be a righty or lefty?
- I hope she likes wearing dresses and enjoys the girly things.
- I can't wait to see Eric with her. I know it is going to melt my heart.
- I pray she will know and love Jesus at a young age.
- Will we scrapbook together?
- Will she think my random outbursts of dances is weird or fun? Will she join in?
- Will she be into baby dolls or stuffed animals?
- If she has to wear glasses at a young age, I promise not to get her ones that cover half of her face.
-I desire for her to feel and see Jesus' love through Eric and I.
-I pray her husband is an awesome Man of God and yearns to lead her to Christ daily.
- Will she like vanilla or chocolate cake?
- I pray she is close to Eric, like I am close to my dad.
- Will she be shy or outgoing?
- Will she like cheese itz or cheese nips?
- I will not let her see E.T. till she is out of elementary school. That movie is freaky!
- I can't wait to take her to the grocery store in a princess outfit with cowboy boots.
- I hope when she sees Eric and I's relationship it will be a great example of what she views the covenant of marriage is.
- I can't wait to see her for the very first time!

These are just a few things I ponder throughout the day about my little girl.