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Okay, here goes…I hate posting my financial life online, but my wife and I are sick and tired of being in debt! I make a decent amount of money and only have 14$ in my emergency fund. I have no retirement fund, no kids’ college funds, nothing.

I had about $50,000 of debt when I married my wife in 2008. She had nothing, but also had a 2005 bankruptcy. I am currently in the military (15 years this month…) and my wife is a stay at home mom for my 9 and 5 year old.

I am looking for ways to free up some money and pay things off quicker. The way things are going, I am going to have everything paid off in 2.5 years, if we can stick to our budget (which we really stink at!)

Here is a rough monthly expense list for us. It doesn’t include birthday gifts, cards, clothes, hair care, etc. since these are not recurring monthly expenses.

HTML:
                        Monthly      Balance      Int. Rate 
Income             $7627
Mortgage          $1570.33     $324,112     4% 
Escrow/Ins         $345.57
Cell Phone        $153
Internet            $62
Bugs/Termites   $70
Water Bill          $200
Sewer               $50
Gas Bill             $35 
Car Insurance    $106.35 
Netflix              $8
Electric Bill        $130 
HOA Dues         $152 
Visa Cred Card $356            $18,900        11.9%
Store Cred Card $28            $1292.79       5.99%
Kohl’s Cred Card $10           $250              19%
Wife Cred Card   $20           $200              19%
Citi Credit Card   $88           $5,335             0% 8 months left
BOA Credit Card $89           $9,084.95         0% 10 months left
AX Credit Card   $106          $5689.58          10.9%
Loan #1            $458.86      $2,412.13         2.9%
Loan #2           $384.26       $15,067.69        17%
Mom Loan         $139          $4,166              0% 
Mazda Loan      $339.15       $13,645.19       2.29% 
Civic Loan         $190.00      $4,233.26          4.65%
Mazda Gas       $90
Civic Gas          $90
Groceries         $700
Eating Out         $250
Kids’ Allowance  $30
Entertainment    $40
Beer/Wine         $60
Pet Supplies      $60
Toiletries          $50
My pocket $$     $60
Wife pocket $$   $60
Wife Gym          $60
Trip Fund            $150
Christmas Fund   $100
I am looking for ways to cut down on debt. I’ll go into detail here:

Income. Fixed.
Mortgage. Fixed at 4%. VA loan, we put $0 down.
Escrow/Insurance. Insurance is through USAA, along with my cars.
Cell Phone. Two smartphones with Verizon.
Internet. We use the internet throughout the day.
Bugs/Termites. Every two months. We had several termite issues that were covered under their warranty. Otherwise, we would have paid over $1,800 in two termite treatments.
Water Bill. Every two months.
Sewer. Includes trash pick-up.
Gas Bill. Gas heater and water heater. This is more in the winter.
Car Insurance. Both cars and wife’s wedding ring.
Netflix. Instead of cable.
Electric Bill. Goes down in winter.
HOA Dues. Quarterly.
Loan #2. 17% interest. Needed money to get new floors, trim, door casing, tools etc. to update house. Hopefully with having a modern house in our area has raised the value. We were going to wait, but our new puppy peed all over the carpet despite us letting her outside every 5 minutes. The carpet was destroyed so we decided to upgrade now.
Mazda Loan. Car is 2012 Mazda5. Need it to take 2 kids and 2 dogs around. Gets about 25 mpg. Only has 25K miles on it and still under warranty.
Civic Loan. 2005 Civic. 40 mpg and 110k miles.
Groceries. We do a little couponing and mostly stay in budget.
Eating Out. We try to eat at cheap restaurants. We usually stick within this budget.
Kids’ Allowance. For chores and for them to save.
Entertainment. Cheap movies on base is one thing we do. 4 tickets to a new movie is $12.
Beer/Wine. Yeah, well, wine and beer taste good!
Pet Supplies. Two dogs. Lots of food!
Toiletries
My pocket $$. To cover random stuff.
Wife pocket $$. To cover random stuff.
Wife Gym. Okay, I know this one is bad, but this includes two hours a day of daycare for both kids while my wife works out. There is a free gym on base, but it gets really crowded at night and my wife doesn’t want to go then. It also gives her a nice break. Open to suggestions…
Trip Fund. To go visit my parents every other month.
Christmas Fund. So we don’t buy gifts on credit!

Total Debt without house: $75,546.

I use a spreadsheet I made to budget. It has all kinds of formulas and links, so I can plan out monthly. It goes out a few years, so I can see how my debt will decrease if I snow ball or pay off the highest interest first.

I need to stick to using cash. We don’t use credit much anymore, but are still having to pull money from one budgeted item to pay for something else. We had $1,000 in our emergency fund, but used it for non-emergency items.

My short term goal is to start a debt log, to track every expense and to also use cash. I want to get $1,000 back into my savings account in the next month.

Our house was $328,000. $322,000 sale price plus a $6,000 funding fee. We may have to sell/rent if we leave the area on orders in 2016, but hopefully we can stay here at least until 2018. The house was built in 1997 and in excellent shape. It has a new roof, water heater, AC/heater and appliances. Otherwise, it wasn’t updated and the inside looked like every other houses’ in the area. But, we put in hardwood floors and changed the trim to white, so it now looks very modern. Hopefully the value has increased! I don’t think we are going to try and pay off the house. We won’t be in it long enough. I think it is more beneficial to pay off all of our other debts and then save. We had the floors installed, but I do most of the other work.

Health insurance. I’m active duty, so it is mostly free. Dental has copays.

Vehicles. Trading in brand new cars every few years got me into debt! I have finally learned my lesson! The Mazda5 is under warranty. I know we could sell it for a cheaper used minivan, but we would take a huge hit on it since we bought it new. But, new sticker was $24,000 and we got it for $19,500 (We traded a Durango, but broke even on the trade in.) The Civic was $6,500, used (with another $1,000 in the year I’ve owned it for tires, alignment, timing belt). I maintain the Civic and whatever isn’t covered under the Mazda’s warranty. I can do anything from changing oil to swapping engines and transmissions, so we hardly ever pay for maintenance labor. Putting on new tires and getting wheel alignments, which are rare, are about the only thing I can’t do since I don’t have the equipment. I thought about selling the Civic and getting a beater for $1,000, but am not sure that taking a loss on the Civic just to get a car that probably needs a lot of work is worth it. The Civic is in great shape, gets 40+ mpg, and is what we drive around in 95% of the time. I am not completely against selling it, but I’d need to get $6,000 for it to help offset what I paid for it and the new tires/timing belt I got for it. Then, I’d need to find a decent beater. The wife uses the Mazda when I am at work and she needs to go somewhere.

We do a pretty good job at selling things on Craigslist when we don’t need them. So, we don’t have much to sell.

I am on Etsy. I am starting to sell repurposed car parts as lamps, book ends, etc. So far I have made $140. But, I am just starting out and trying to get some more sales.

I know it will be suggested that my wife works. With our youngest going to kindergarten, my wife will have time. But, it is half day kindergarten and we would need daycare. She doesn’t have a degree, so realistic pay would be what, anywhere from minimum wage to $10 an hour? Maybe 12$ after a while? I am not sure the added income will offset the hassle of daycare, increased coordination, etc. is worth the little added income. Plus, we don’t have any family in the area and when I get time off, we like to go see family. With her working, it would be hard for her to get time off so we can go somewhere last minute. She is helping a lot with selling my stuff on Etsy. She also makes meal plans and sets up the whole week so we don’t run into being hungry without healthy food and also keeps us from eating out; if she worked there would be a lot less time to meal plan. Her working is really more of an emotional thing because it means less time for us to see each other. After two back to back deployments, and more deployments to come, we don’t like the idea of spending time apart if we don’t have to.

We looked into babysitting, but it is not an option. Our two kids and two dogs are more than enough. Watching someone else’s kids would be too much! Speaking of babysitting, we have friends that watch our kids for free in return for us watching their kids for free. We don’t consider it babysitting since their kids our friends with our kids, so they really just play with each other and we don’t have to do much as babysitters.

I am working on a Master’s degree, so no second job for me. I am paying for it with the GI Bill.

Thanks for reading, and we will gladly accept any and all suggestions and comments!!
 

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Your water bill seems high, IMO.

You're spending $950 on food. That's too much for 4 people. Cut some of the eating out, obviously, but you can probably trim the grocery bill without suffering too much too.

$280 for entertainment, beer, blow money and the gym. This is one category and needs to be cut back. Your $60 in pocket money can buy beer if that's what you want, or it can buy your wife's gym membership.

$50 in toiletries? Seriously? That's a lot of toothpaste and deoderant each month. How much of this really necessary for hygeine?
 
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Your water bill seems high, IMO.

You're spending $950 on food. That's too much for 4 people. Cut some of the eating out, obviously, but you can probably trim the grocery bill without suffering too much too.

$280 for entertainment, beer, blow money and the gym. This is one category and needs to be cut back. Your $60 in pocket money can buy beer if that's what you want, or it can buy your wife's gym membership.

$50 in toiletries? Seriously? That's a lot of toothpaste and deoderant each month. How much of this really necessary for hygeine?
Water bill may be a bit much, but I am not sure how to cut it. We don't water our lawn and I only wash the cars once a month. We all shower once a day and don't spend too much time in there. Dogs get a bath once every two weeks or so. We shut the water off while brushing our teeth and shaving. Any suggestions?

Okay, I'll cut groceries to $650 a month and eating out to $75 a month.

I took out my beer budget. You are right, that should be my pocket money.

Toiletries was too much! How about $30 a month? Shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc.

If we can stick to these changes, that is $200 a month!
 

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If you look at how you have described your budget here, you will easily see where you can save. It is in those posts where you feel the need to write long explainations, especially the vehicle categories. :)

There is nothing that says your wife has to go to work outside the home, if she can save or make money at home. Maybe she can do most of the work on Etsy, maybe she can find ways to cut your grocery bill in half. Maybe she can find some SAHM job.

I don't know how prices are in your area, but isn't the phone bill very high?
 

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Your water bill seems high, IMO.

You're spending $950 on food. That's too much for 4 people. Cut some of the eating out, obviously, but you can probably trim the grocery bill without suffering too much too.

$280 for entertainment, beer, blow money and the gym. This is one category and needs to be cut back. Your $60 in pocket money can buy beer if that's what you want, or it can buy your wife's gym membership.

$50 in toiletries? Seriously? That's a lot of toothpaste and deoderant each month. How much of this really necessary for hygeine?
I concur with all this. Especially if you are couponing. I was feeding 2 adults and 4 kids (though admittedly one wasn't eating much, he's not quite 2 now) plus 3 cats and a dog, on $600 a month, and that included toiletries. I don't know what area of the country you are in, but having looked at sale papers recently in an expensive area in California, COL isn't THAT much higher in the more expensive areas in the country.

With your income, I wouldn't even think to suggest your wife go back to work. BUT, if she wants to, working a couple hours while the youngest is in half day kindergarten would certainly work out. She could check on maybe working at the cafeteria at the kids school, especially if it's morning kindy. A few years ago, my DH was working full time, plus OT when it was available, and going to school full time for a BS in mech. engineering, and I still managed to work about 10 t0 15 hrs a week. It was hard, and sucked, and I am a SAHM now, but when we needed to, we did what we had to do. I don't think you guys NEED to try to figure something like that out, but if she wants to work I am sure you could figure something out around the schedules. Another option for her to look into might be something like selling tupperware, avon, pampered chef, that sort of stuff.

I suggest cutting the catagories of eating out and alcohol completely. I suggest examining your entertainment category. Maybe instead of going to the movies, you use a free redbox code and rent one and do a movie night in. Maybe make homemade pizzas, have the kids put their own toppings on (kids love that kinda stuff) and then pop some pop corn, turn the lights out, etc.
 

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If you look at how you have described your budget here, you will easily see where you can save. It is in those posts where you feel the need to write long explainations, especially the vehicle categories. :)

There is nothing that says your wife has to go to work outside the home, if she can save or make money at home. Maybe she can do most of the work on Etsy, maybe she can find ways to cut your grocery bill in half. Maybe she can find some SAHM job.

I don't know how prices are in your area, but isn't the phone bill very high?
Yes, you are correct with the long explanations. Hence why I am here. Maybe someone telling me will help me realize we are rationalizing reasons to not change??

Cars. I am looking into it right now. Decent Craigslist Honda minivan = $7,000, for something with less than 120,000 miles. Is that too much? I can try to get what I owe on the Mazda in a private party sale. New payment on a $7,000 van would be $154 on a four year loan, with the intent of paying it off much faster. Initially, the lower payment would help pay off other things faster.

Civic. Sell for $6,000. Buy a cheap beater. I'd have about $1,700 left over for a car, repairs and registration. I will have to resist the urge to fix everything and only fix what is needed. I am a car guy, I can't help trying to fix everything!

My wife is running Etsy. She is taking the pictures and making the posts. She also may be going back to school, using part of my GI Bill. If she focused, she could cut the grocery bill.

Phone bill is high. I can ditch Verizon, sell my phone on eBay and mostly cover the early termination fee. I can get a cheapo phone and then a GPS for my car. I only use my phone as an alarm, GPS and to play Clash of Clans. My wife could keep her smartphone since she actually uses a lot of the smartphone features. Am I rationalizing too much?? It probably save around $30-50.
 

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If you are a car guy, have you considered capitalizing on that to bring in some extra money? Offer to change peoples breaks, struts, etc. Or even go so far as to start flipping cars?
 

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I concur with all this. Especially if you are couponing. I was feeding 2 adults and 4 kids (though admittedly one wasn't eating much, he's not quite 2 now) plus 3 cats and a dog, on $600 a month, and that included toiletries. I don't know what area of the country you are in, but having looked at sale papers recently in an expensive area in California, COL isn't THAT much higher in the more expensive areas in the country.

With your income, I wouldn't even think to suggest your wife go back to work. BUT, if she wants to, working a couple hours while the youngest is in half day kindergarten would certainly work out. She could check on maybe working at the cafeteria at the kids school, especially if it's morning kindy. A few years ago, my DH was working full time, plus OT when it was available, and going to school full time for a BS in mech. engineering, and I still managed to work about 10 t0 15 hrs a week. It was hard, and sucked, and I am a SAHM now, but when we needed to, we did what we had to do. I don't think you guys NEED to try to figure something like that out, but if she wants to work I am sure you could figure something out around the schedules. Another option for her to look into might be something like selling tupperware, avon, pampered chef, that sort of stuff.

I suggest cutting the catagories of eating out and alcohol completely. I suggest examining your entertainment category. Maybe instead of going to the movies, you use a free redbox code and rent one and do a movie night in. Maybe make homemade pizzas, have the kids put their own toppings on (kids love that kinda stuff) and then pop some pop corn, turn the lights out, etc.
Okay, I dropped the entertainment by $10 a month. We do other things that fall into this category.

My wife is onboard with spending less on groceries and eating out.

The closest grocery store is five minutes from the house, but really expensive. Walmart is about 15 minutes away. The tax free commissary is 25 minutes away. Better planning is really all that is needed for us to get everything. We usually skip the expensive store but it is where I run out to if we forgot to buy something since it is so close. I need to take the longer trip to Walmart to save money.

Also, we try to eat healthy. So, we skip the processed food and stick with fresh veggies, fruit, meat, etc. Some of the commissary's fruit seems to get moldy after a day and the same goes for Walmart. We buy the good produce at Trader Joes or the expensive store by the house. My wife makes the meal plans and we do a lot of freezer meals, so when we are hungry and don't feel like cooking, we can just throw something in the oven.

My wife chooses to be a SAHM. We are really wanting to get out of debt, but her working really seems to be out of the question for now. Maybe in another year when both kids are at school for the full day, but not right now. Also, she wants to go back to school, so her picking up a side job would not leave much time for school and the kids. Keeping the kids busy without having them watch TV all day is pretty exhausting. I don't know how she does it!
 

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If you are a car guy, have you considered capitalizing on that to bring in some extra money? Offer to change peoples breaks, struts, etc. Or even go so far as to start flipping cars?
The thought has crossed my mind, but here are the reasons why I choose not to:
Liability - If I do something wrong, or if I do nothing wrong but get blamed, will I end up getting sued? I'd rather not risk it.
HOA has a no car maintenance policy. Yes, I work on my car with the garage door closed, but the neighbors might notice a lot of random cars going in and out of my garage. If they complain, I could get a fine.
Flipping cars is risky. I could get some good deals on broken cars, but I could also end up putting more money into what the car is worth. Then, there is the liability issue again.

Thanks for the suggestion!
 

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First, Stop charging things. Pay off those two small 19% cards and don't use them again.

You're overwhelmed by debt. Start an action plan to pay off your highest interest rate credit first, then work down. If both the children are in school, maybe your wife can work part-time?

I think getting an advanced degree is a great investment of your time and will give you a great return, since it is being paid by someone else.

I really think you know what you need to do. Just stay out of stores and restaurants until that consumer debt is paid.
 

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Hey,

first of all welcome and congratulations on having the courage on posting your budget inhere. Acknowledging that you have a problem is a big first step.

There were 2 more things that crossed my mind the others didn't mention, might be a cultural thing.
First as you own money to your parents, maybe would it be an idea to cut the visits even if just a little bit to like 1 every 3 months? That way you would be able to pay them back quicker. You don't seem to be in the position where you need to do this, so it is merely a suggestion.
Secondly, I know Christmass is huge in the USA, but we are now the 8th month of the year, so by my calculations you should have about 700-800 USD for Christmass. Wouldn't this be enough? I know I am European, but I simply can't imagine my parents spending even half of that on Christmass and Sinterklaas (Santa Claus before the Coca Cola company, comes at a different day). And I have a younger bro and sis btw, so I wasn't a single kid either.

You are having a couple of really low debts (Kohl's and the wife's credit card) so even making temporary changes like these will help enough to see a result. And I think upping your Christmass money by what you are saving in paid off balances even if that isn't the DR method, would be really motivating ;).
 
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First thing I would do is build up the efund. Pay minimums on all of those (cut up ;) ) credit cards until you have done that, and then start snowballing.

How the Debt Snowball Method Works - daveramsey.com

The bottom line is you have two things you can do:

Increase income.
Decrease expenditures. The best thing you can do here is be honest with yourselves.

Honestly, getting the spouse and yourself on board is the biggest part of the battle. But... don't forget your personal cash for yourself and your wife. I think this is important because it helps you feel like you still can have a little fun. KWIM?

Good luck and ... THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!! :usasmile::usasmile::usasmile:
 

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Toiletries was too much! How about $30 a month? Shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc.
Just examine what you are actually buying and how much you use. Shampoo is pretty much all the same, the $3 bottle and the 99c bottle do the same job. Bar soap gets you just as clean for 1/4 the price of liquid soap.

Toothpaste companies want you to cover the brush with product, when a pea sized blob will do. Especially for kids, they end up spitting most of it into the sink. That's waste. Make sure when they wash they aren't using big handfuls of liquid soap.

Toilet paper all ends up in the same place, so why spend a lot on it. I'm not saying you need to use the cheapest you can find, but you can probably knock a dollar or two off the price per pack by trying a different brand.


It also sounds like you need to do some meal planning. Make a menu and check it against items you already have in the house, so you'll know what to buy. That keeps you from needing to run out at the last minute (and impulse buys). If you buy vegs with a short shelf life from the commissary, plan to eat those first, the night they come home and the next night.

I wouldn't give up entirely on eating out, as it is something you are used to and it can be hard to give up all at once. Maybe cut it to once a month instead of once a week.
 
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HI, this is rough! I have been there... SO after I got marriage things become better on the financially side, but what I did learn is while you abusively need to decrease your expenses, you for sure need to increase your income!. The new economy just doesn't allow you to trust only one income funnel. it's not working any more! so you need to find way to add some money to your bucket and not just see where you can save. I understand that you are working full time but your wife, as a stay home mom for sure could find 2-3 hours a day doing something that will increase your income! If you want more details and options, let me know!
Tal
 

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Cars. I am looking into it right now. Decent Craigslist Honda minivan = $7,000, for something with less than 120,000 miles. Is that too much? I can try to get what I owe on the Mazda in a private party sale. New payment on a $7,000 van would be $154 on a four year loan, with the intent of paying it off much faster. Initially, the lower payment would help pay off other things faster.

Civic. Sell for $6,000. Buy a cheap beater. I'd have about $1,700 left over for a car, repairs and registration. I will have to resist the urge to fix everything and only fix what is needed. I am a car guy, I can't help trying to fix everything!
You have a surplus in your budget today of $700 - let's say that is for August, put that towards the emergency fund. And let's say for the sake of math that you do just what you have said here: cut the beer, phone, entertainment and groceries, downsize in cars. Let's also say that you get $100/month from etsy.

In September you will have a surplus of more than $1500. That's enough to pay down two credit cards (Kohl and Wife), and almost all of the Store credit card.
In October you will have a surplus of more than $1600. That's enough to pay down the rest of the Store credit, and almost all of Loan #1
In November you will have a surplus of more than $2000. That's enough to pay down the rest of Loan #1, and half of Mom Loan
In December you will have a surplus of more than $2000. That's enough to pay down the rest of Mom Loan, and get a good start on the Citi credit card.

Sounds good? Of course you could pay down the debt in different orders, maybe cut some more or less, but as long as you've got a plan you will get ahead. The snowball will continue to grow as long as you keep your budget.
 

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Congrats on coming here and being pro active about the suggestions. So many ask and then shoot down all the suggestions. It can be overwhelming but in the end its so worth it. The one this that helped us is to visualize everything. Dh and I got the attitude of hey,thats my money you cant have it. So we evaluated everything w/ scrutiny. The best way to shock yourself to reality is to figure out what your paying per year for things. Are toiletries (bum wipe and toothpaste) worth $720. to you? And so forth.

Now I have a question about the commisary? Could you go 2x a month w/ monthly meal planning and save. They used to take all coupons even expired. Check that. Could a good haul offset the gas. Your SAHM is the business manager of the home and thats the kind of thing she can do. I stayed at home the whole time the kidss grew up w/ a few yrs. exception and thats what I did. She should go to Utube and watch the couponing videos. I did. It's amazing whats there for the taking.
This is all a process. You learn one thing and it leads to another. At my house I buy spray bottles @ the dollar store. I buy bleach and vinegar. I use 2 parts cleaner to 4 parts water and clean most everything in the house. I get furn. polish at Big Lot and fake soft scrub. Havent bought cleaners in 2 years.
Look forward to see the growth in your posts. Congrats for coming here.
 

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Okay, thanks for all the suggestions! This is exactly why I joined the forum. Sometimes it takes an outside opinion to make you realize that you are doing it wrong!

We got paid today. So, I have cash and my wife and I have log books to keep track of every cent we spend this month. We sat down together and figured out all expenses until next paycheck.

I put $48 into my efund. I forgot to add we are at my parents house for a week long vacation that was planned months ago. We do it every year, but we kind of planned for it. We have money budgeted for the week and won't use credit or savings.

Yes, toiletries was high! It ended up being a way to have extra money in my account to use for something else.

With all of the suggestions so far, we are cutting our grocery budget and my wife will keep meal planning. We cut our eating out budget so we can go out once a paycheck. I have found $200 a month in the budget!

My cell phone is still on the maybe list. If my Etsy gets going, a smart phone will help take pics and keep the Instagram and Facebook feeds going. Not necessary to keep the smartphone, but very helpful!

The vehicles are staying put for right now. I did some quick math and the cost per mile on them is the same as with cheaper cars with more miles. The kicker? For the cost per mile to equal out cheaper cars, we need to keep them for a long time! I can get another 100-150K out of the Civic. It won't have paint left, but it will last. We will probably keep the Mazda for another 100K, unless our puppy gets too big. I am not worrying about it right now.

This paycheck's goal is to keep track of every expense and stick to the budget! Next paycheck's goal is to get the efund to $1,000.
 

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congrats on being brave enough to lay it all on the line in public!! You have gotten a lot of good advice. I would just add, with $75K in debt, I would not be eating out. I know people get used to it, but you can do without it.

I think it was Suze Orman who said, you have to get more enjoyment out of SAVING money than you do out of spending it.

Good luck, sounds like you are motivated and on the right track! And welcome to the forum.
 
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