June 30th has come and gone and alas, no final update for our shopping ban! What’s the deal, Alyssa?
Well, I’m super pregnant, and there are only so many working neurons in my noggin right now. Existence is mostly pain, shortness of breath, gas, and hunger right now, and I’m lucky if I can get up off the couch without grunting. You’re gonna take what I give you, and you’re gonna enjoy it (or you won’t, whatever, I’m not the boss of you).
SO…Let’s talk about money. Yikes.
We’ll start with my biggest weakness – Amazon. In my original post, I mentioned how much I had spent on Amazon in April (a staggering $750!). I did much better this month! I did still order some stuff on Amazon, so I didn’t stick my restriction of not buying anything. However, what I did purchase was carefully thought out and not strictly impulsive. I had been needing some comfortable maternity and nursing bras, so I got three of those. Ben needed some creative activities around the house, so I finally caved and ordered some Play-Doh and accessories for him (only after trying to make some of our own! It did not work). After doing some research, Amazon had the best prices on some pantry items and the laundry and dishwasher pods we use, so we restocked those. Total spent on Amazon in June: $266.37.
Next up – Target. What mom doesn’t love Target? We go there to escape the Florida heat and humidity sometimes. In April we spent $917 there…how?! On what?! I have no idea!! Hence the need for this whole experiment. Again, we broke the “no spending there whatsoever” rule, but this was after doing considerable research on which store had the best pricing on frozen, dairy-free lunches for Peter. Target has not only the most extensive selection but also the best prices, especially when paired with our RedCard. I went to four different stores and made an entire spreadsheet, so trust me on this one. Our purchases at Target this month comprised of grocery items and frozen foods we couldn’t get elsewhere, so I’ll still consider that acceptable. Total spent at Target: $220.33.
Another spending goal was to reduce our grocery bill a bit. Granted, we’re a family of four with a teenager, a toddler, and one on the way, so there’s only so much trimming we can do there. I tried to plan for less complicated (but still healthy!) meals and to use more of what we already have in the freezer to save a bit. I feel like I was pretty successful here: compared to April ($1661.74) and May ($1472.77), our Total spent on groceries: $994.05. This amount could probably come down more if we worked at it, but surprisingly still falls between the “low-cost” and “moderate-cost” food plans as estimated by the USDA.
So far, so good, right?
Well, no joke, the DAY AFTER I posted our mid-month update, Peter’s car decided it no longer wanted to go in reverse. He learned this while trying to get back to work from lunch, and wound up having to push the dang thing backward out of the parking spot…in the rain. The transmission had been acting up for a while, so we knew it was going to be an issue soon, we just didn’t anticipate it being an issue this soon. Getting the transmission fixed (replaced, more likely) was going to cost more than the car was worth, and the vehicle’s age and lack of newer safety features (like lane keep assist or backup camera) made us a little hesitant to keep it for when Isaac gets his license. After some research, we dropped by Coggin Honda to check out a new Honda Fit.
Pro tip: go to a car dealership in the late afternoon/early evening. They want to make quotas and tend to be more willing to haggle with you to get both you and them out the door and a car sold or leased. That’s how we wound up coming home (after 9 pm) with this!
So much for “no spending” this month, eh? That’s life. Since we had been careful with our spending early in the month, we were able to put down a sizeable down payment, which in turn helped lower the monthly payments. We then sold the Nissan Versa and put the money from the sale directly into savings.
Part of the reason we did this experiment was to fix our spending habits and work on paying down our credit card debt, in preparation for building a house. In writing out a new budget, we planned to make larger payments on the three active cards, in an attempt to pay them down faster. They all have different interest rates, and the monthly interest charges were pretty painful. What could we do? Once again, RESEARCH saves the day. Be still, my logical, evidence-based heart. (actually please don’t, I like being alive)
Thanks to the wonders of technology and Facebook’s tracking of literally everything you post/search for/talk about, we saw an ad for SoFi credit consolidation loans and figured, why not see if we’re pre-approved? Their pre-approval process isn’t a hard pull on our credit, so if we can’t get the amount necessary to cover all of the card balances, we’ll forget it. Lo and behold, they approved us for a much lower interest rate than any of the cards, with a payment comparable to what we were already making, AND it was the amount we needed, a whopping $████!
Hahaha, you sillies! I’m not actually going to disclose how much credit debt we have. That’s a bit too personal, and frankly, embarrassing. Just pick a big number at random and pretend it’s that.
We were pretty surprised at the approval, but the amount we would save in interest over the long run and the fact that it will be paid off by a set date was what tipped the scales enough for us to finalize the application. Now, instead of three credit cards with super high balances, we have ONE card with a balance of less than $5,000 (balance transfer with 0% interest for one year), and a single monthly payment to pay off the loan. We went from stupid-high% credit utilization to less than 10%. HOT DAMN. As long as we continue spending carefully, we will be debt free by June 2023…though in all likelihood that end date will be sooner since we’ll pay more on top of the minimum payment whenever we can. The loan also looks better on our credit than the revolving debt, evidenced by the fact that Peter’s score alone jumped nearly 30 points after we paid off the cards with the loan disbursement.
While our “no spend” experiment didn’t go quite how we planned, we still learned a lot about our habits and made some pretty good progress toward our home-buying goal. I’m still working to avoid impulse shopping when bored or stressed, and I’ve taken a much more active role in our shared finances. Peter has been pretty good about bringing his lunch to work, but he’s slipped a bit these last couple of weeks. Gotta tighten up that belt, honey!
I think that’s all my brain can handle for now, folks. I need a nap!