The American Dollar
One industrious American family's focus on a financial goal of freedom. Through worldly personal finance education, here is our story.
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Our Story: Both my wife and I are 27 years old and have gone through financial hell and back. Now we are on track to financial freedom, however we are not financial advisors or professionals, just everyday people. Share our journey from a negative networth and email us if you have questions or comments! :)


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Let's reminisce...

I have devised a final plan to make sure the student loan is paid off by September 8th because the amount of the entire payoff $15,448.69, must be in their system by September 10 before it rolls to next month. On that friday the 8th, as I have my paycheck, I'm going to complete the transaction. My wife and I agree that its going to be a hellish next 14 days. We said if we can survive, it will be well worth it. We are going to be on a tough strict budget adhereing to the budget; and both of us are on board and committed! I told her that I'm very excited about paying this off but at the same time, I'm kinda sad that I won't have any extra debt to pay down. LOL :) Its been such an experience to pay this down and I know its only going to get better.

On the homefront, wife woke up a little sick this morning and wanted a drink really bad... cranberry juice. I shrugged... maybe this morning sickness thing people talk about IS real. At work, we finished some assignments and I took the rest of the day off.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Weird hours making life "different"

I dont know if anyone realizes that I work on a crazy schedule during my training time; 3pm - 11pm. Even though I am currently in the back stretch and have about 2 more weeks left, its a different change of pace for me. Normally Im home by 5pm with my wife and just enjoying the company spent with her. Now I just come home and she's already asleep and by the time I go to bed its her time to wake up. Thats a little annoying and also I kinda miss her. It makes the week go by a little faster because I'm independent and only have to worry about myself. Today was the exception where she wanted me to get up a little earlier to go to Target to get a specific fabric softener she loves, I think its called Downy Simple pleasures. Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting all my benefit choices out of the way and kick back for the next couple weeks before I actually am "working".

We choose to switch to my company's Anthem HMO plan, so we are covered when she stays at home with our child. It comes with vision and dental packages too. So I have to get that put in by the end of the month. Also upcoming my sister's 13th birthday is coming up and I need to find her a last minute present. She's into her hamsters and Johnny Depp, so I'm thinking of getting her a picture of Johnny depp's head on a hamsters body. Found some great chuck e cheese coupons on the web too to download for Saturday. If you're in town, stop by :)

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Raise your hand if you're unsure!

I hate feeling this way! Like I cant breathe because of the financial issues surrounding me. Its basically come down to making the deposit for our fence and finishing paying off our student loan that we've been working so hard on since May. Here is the simple breakdown. The fence deposit is $1085 and I will have to put this week another $800 into killing our student loan debt, which is 2 more paychecks away! I've been manipulating the numbers to get both sides in my brain happy, however its going come down to a simple choice.

On the side note, we decided to choose my employer's HMO plan and cancel her PPO, which will ultimately save us $80/month right off the bat and $460/ month after the baby is born and we are on the family plan. I made sure that the doctors that she goes to are in-network in the HMO plan. We still have to go to the PCP to get a referral for a specialist however it shouldn't be that serious that we cant make a simple trip up to save $500 per month.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday evening

Just a little side note, this weekend we decided to tell our immediate families that we are having a child. Its interesting the first time you tell your parents that they are going to be grandparents. They of course were very excited to know that we are expecting. We also had some barbeque chicken and ribs to top off a great evening.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Focusing on our debt!

Today i transferred some funds out of my paycheck to our debt however i had to leave some funds behind to pay off a hospital bill that we had to goto in the middle of last month. huge set back but we will make up for it next couple pay periods. We also decided to stick to the debt payoff of our student loan before getting the fence. We figure that we can always add a fence and if it comes in december that we are able to pay for one, we will wait til it gets warmer. Its a big deal to rush into spending $3000... i think we will take our time with the details and not miss anything with such a big purchase.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Changing Health Insurance

Health insurance options: the most overlooked financial topic (to me at least). Since my new hire date, I am approaching the time where I will be eligible for full health benefits. They presented me with 5 different options that can be a little intimidating and confusing with what is covered, being a PPO, HMO, POS, etc. During time with my previous employers, I would have to select from either one of two plans PPO and HMO or they would have only one option. Having health insurance is as important to your financial future as socking away retirement money. I've been doing nothing but researching for the past couple days and am getting to the nitty gritty fine print of this. I love reading and but mostly from the acutal insurer sites am I getting the most info. I had to call a couple to make sure they cover us in certain situations. Health insurance needs differ from individual to individual and are defined in quality, cost and coverage. I want a family plan that covers with the least deductible or 100% covered GYN/physician visits, maternity care and child immunizations. We also need emergency room/ urgent care visits costing the least amount in a deductible. To bring this closer to home, when I select a plan with my new company, my wife will cancel all her vision, dental, and health at work and will save us about $80 more a month which means + income to use on other things.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Debt Free = Spend more money!

Home improvements have gotten me strapped. The old adage goes that if you can't pay for it with cash, it means you can't buy it now. As we are finishing paying off our 2.85% fixed student loan, we realize that afterward we are going to have a few financial allocation issues. At the moment, I get paid every week which goes directly towards the debt. My wife's checks are our monthly budget and fun. Here is the schedule of how I have my checks every week. I broke it down to 4 weeks in a month: A, B, C, D.

A-Emergency Fund to $10,000
B-Mortgage payoff
C-Retirement account maxed
D-Baby Fund/ Home projects

This is the schedule after we are debt-free, however we need to focus on paying for a fence before it gets too cold outside. If we start now, we can have it finished by October. Otherwise we can wait a couple weeks and it will be finished ultimately in November. Not something that I want to do. I would rather get it done as soon as possible, but at what cost? $1085 initial payment on Sept 23 puts us in the November schedule to have it done. Should I put off the student loan just for a couple weeks to get this in? I mean it would be a good move and ultimately everything is going to be paid off in september anyway, its just the idea of writing the checks earlier to the fencing company. To add another issue, we need to remodel our main bathroom's sink. The counter is scracthed and falling apart so that will be about $500 for parts and install. At least we know that we won't have any problems finding things to spend on when we are debt free. :)

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What does it mean to be Debt Free?

On the eve of being debt free, an article on sums it up with 50 good things about being debt free.

Personal favorites are knowing you can withstand anything financial life throws at you and knowing the difference between wants and needs. Come on stupid student loan, get out of our lives! (Another $500 transferred today, still on track for Sept 8, 2006)

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Maximizing Our Monthly Budget: Household

Our household items are considered a once or twice a month trip to Sam's Club and Target. Outside of our normal grocery fund, at Sam's we stick to dry bulk items like toiletries, paper towels, napkins, tissues and bulk grocery like water, lipton green tea, milk, cranberry juice. At Target, the catagory includes carpet cleaner, detergent, candles, sponges, dishwashing liquid, body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, and conditioner. Obviously since we don't need to replenish these items until they are depleted, we evaluate what we need and then go shop. We budget between $100-$150 because we can stretch a dollar pretty well. This week we had an unexpected trip to Target to get a $20 humidifier for the room. The household budget is the second most fluctuating catagory behind "restaurant", however some months when we have no items to purchase we have cash overflow. This doesnt deter us because whatever overflow we get, it gets added to next months household catagory. With a child on the way, I'm guessing the catagory will need to grow approx $70-$100 more, ie. baby powder, baby shampoo, DIAPERS!, etc.

Today we also went to the GYN for a normal check up and we got to HEAR THE HEARTBEAT! It sounds very fast and was such a great experience. Still I can't believe that we can produce something that has a heartbeat. Just surreal.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

All the weeds need to go!

Im my pursuit for a clean cut backyard, I have loaded up a container size full of tree debris and grass clippings. I also have noticed that weeds are popping up in places on the side of our home. Since they are small and come through the cracks, I was looking at getting a gallon of round up formula at home depot. Instead I googled a bit and found a great site with some nifty homemade ideas for killing weeds.

Here is what I decided to do:

1/2 parts vinegar
1/2 parts palmolive blue dish soap
Small handful of regular table salt

Looks like I'll be busy!

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Backyard Clean-up

Our backyard is starting to look better. I called the city to deliver a containter for our tree limbs and branches for $30. Its about the side of a medium size driveway, which is where they will park it. This weekend we will be spending time in the fresh outdoor weather hauling massive piles of lawn debris, twigs, etc by wheelbarrow. Its enough to make you want to hate outdoor work by the end of the day. Right now we are eager to get outside and get it cleaned up for the fence installers. If I have to pay the city $30 for them to bring me a container for the weekend, you better believe that I'm going to fill it to capacity and more. Hopefully I wont break my back or other bones while doing all this. Obviously my wife will be inside doing laundry and sipping lemonade :)

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Maximizing our monthly budget: Groceries

I've decided to start to list each of our several monthly catagories and dive into each one to see if we are getting the best in value for our money. The topic today is our groceries. We have gotten alot better over time with our grocery catagory. At one point, we were paying over $100 in groceries. We have learned not to purchase what is on our mind at the time, but only purchase what we are going to eat during the week. We are getting better with stabilizing our weekly groceries to $55-$60 per week. She likes to write down exactly what we are going to buy and ONLY purchase what is on the list. We rarely go out or eat fast food, but that is the restaurant budget which we will save for another day.

With the baby coming, I assume that the baby's food will be approximately $50 more a week. Last week while walking through Walgreens, I saw baby formula behind lock and key for $25-$35. That's expensive. Even though we will be getting coupons from manufacturers for free samples, viewing their websites and looking at other online suggestions, does anyone recommend a particular brand being that it is so expensive?? :)

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Getting Motivated!

We are really motivated to knock out our debt in the 2nd week in September. So motivated that we have been setting up plans for what to do the 3rd week in September. I was thinking we deserve a break for being so good at clearing our debt and being debt free except for the house. We wanted to spend on some new clothes, new shoes, maybe an expensive dinner with drinks at an upscale restaurant. Then as it gets closer to actually having that money in hand instead of paying down debt, we are planning to jump right into needed home upgrades (aside from us socking away about $1000/month in an emergency fund until $10,000 is reached). Here are the things which we calculated to be an estimated $5200 total in home upgrades.

1) Cedar Privacy Fence with 2 gates in backyard $3200
2) Interior doors for 3 bedrooms + 3 closet door sets with included parts $480
3) New assembled extreme weather shed $500
4) One bedroom recarpeted $100
5) Main Hall Bathroom Sink/Cabinet replacement + installation $430
6) Garage Door opener + installation $280
7) Landscaping front/backyard (grass seed/aerator) $150
8) Upgrades that we've wanted to do for 2 years but couldn't since we were in debt - PRICELESS

That's alot to do over the course of a couple months. We definately want everything completed in October (outside stuff)/ November (inside stuff) or hoping to get really close to finishing. I think the main reason why we are pushing so hard to get these things completed is because well, the baby is coming in late Feb/ early March. This way we are able to build funds for maximizing our retirement accounts, baby's college fund, baby items, etc. But that is the direction we are going after we are debt free. So you see, planning ahead is motivating and fun!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Life: Updated!

After getting very lucky with a new BETTER job closer to home, I have been busy busy busy but will try on a more daily basis to get back to my enjoyment of blogging. My job keeps me on my toes and I have a great group that has now evolved into a second family for me. Personal finance has been on my mind for the past few weeks and more strongly than ever. We are finally getting down to crunch time on our final debt: the student loan. We have $11,800.00 amassed so far to reduce the debt and have approximately 3 weeks left on our time table to complete it. I have enjoyed killing our debt so much that I hate to end it :) LOL. We are still on a budget and counting our pennies diligently. I'm already setting up game plans after the 3 weeks too. I'll explain a piece here and there as the time comes.

On the home front, things are going great. The wife is now 12 weeks pregnant and I've been accompanying her to the GYN appointments. On one occassion I got to hear a little heart beat, which to me was the most fascinating sound. Not to get too emotional there, but that is just an awesome experience for the first time. I do get to participate in some areas of the visit like me asking the doctor questions about food, activities and everything under the sun. Then comes my home improvement update with our backyard being the main project. It's a project that is coming along slowly but it will be all worth it. Plus we are paying everything in cash as we improve. I have updated our networth sheet too and will post more tomorrow.

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Emergency Fund
2007 Roth Contributions
$8,000 Total

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