Monday, March 28, 2011

Pay in cash- keep the change!

I always thought I was a good little budgeter.  When my husband joined the Navy I became in charge of finances and bills and such. Smart move for hubby!   :)

However, if only I knew then what I know now.  (I must warn you, I get a little side-tracked, but it all leads to my point if you just stay with me, but if you're pressed for time, skip down to the 2nd to last paragraph)

If it were left to hubby, he would buy everything he *wanted* and then somehow scramble to try and pay the bills. I was a good young wife and paid the bills first and then with whatever was leftover we'd do pretty much what we wanted with it. To me, that was budgeting.

It wasn't too bad of a way to live early on. We had one small car that my dad had bought me before we got married. We had an apartment, which the Navy pretty much gave us the money to pay for. We had awesome insurance, very little co-pays and didn't have many bills. We ordered pizza every weekend. We also only had one child at the time.

Shortly after we had two children. Not much else changed for a few years. We were still able to pay our bills and play with what was leftover. Every now and then we'd put some in savings.

About 3 years into being a military family we decided to take advantage of the awesome opportunities presented to us. (VA home loan) John was getting ready to go on his 3rd deployment and we were looking at having him try recruiting afterwards. This would allow us to still have all the great Navy benefits, but be able to live in Utah and actually see each other every night. The Navy was giving us this money to pay for housing, why not buy a house with it?

We bought our first house in 2002. It was a great little starter home in a good neighborhood. We felt like it was *our* home from the first night we stayed there. It had a great feeling to it. My mom was looking for a place to stay around the same time and moved in with us. John wasn't able to become a recruiter until 2003. He got back from his 4th deployment in 2003 and 9 months later we had our 3rd child. I was about 4 months along when John started recruiting. What a fun time! I felt like I had the best of both worlds. Not only was my husband still in the Navy, which meant I still got to see him in uniform (woohoo), we also got to be in our favorite place- Utah! We got to sleep next to each other EVERY single night. We had great benefits and a house of our own. We even had a live-in Grandma, which was awesome for everyone.

John was away on his 1st deployment when our 2nd child was born. It was so nice to have him be there for the 3rd.

The dream of having both worlds didn't last long. John wasn't quite cut out to be a recruiter and was soon sent back to San Diego. However, he was going to be on shore duty still. He wouldn't be on a ship. The wheels started turning and soon the kids and I moved down to be with him once again in San Diego. We stayed in military housing and split the mortgage with my mom who stayed behind in our home.

Living in San Diego and paying on a home in Utah wasn't cheap. We still payed our bills and played though. After a few months I became a surrogate and we were able to pay things off and really try to make better choices with our money. It was great. We were out of debt and had a good chunk of change in the bank.

Then I moved back home with the kids in 2006 as John prepared to go to another ship. But before we moved back home, I felt like we had outgrown our house.  The kids were getting older and all the rooms were full. I wasn't going to ask my mom to leave. She was an awesome room mate and an important part of our family. But I just felt like we needed to find a bigger, newer home.

Crazy lady! Here I was 7-8 months pregnant with my 1st surrobaby, living in San Diego and looking for a home in Utah. Not an easy task. But we were able to come home a weekend here or there and found a home. It was an upgrade, it was newer and bigger. However, once we put our 1st home up for sale, we couldn't afford to stay in the same area unless we wanted to pay about $40,000 more for the same size home. No thanks, so we branched out a little further and then a little further.

Unfortunately we moved too far for my mom to move with us. I was sad and I felt bad that we uprooted her. When we bought the house we were still living in San Diego.  When we moved here, we didn't realize HOW far out it was. It was a bit of a shock at first. But we soon learned the value of it. We are in another time and place. A safer time and place. We live in an awesome neighborhood! We moved in about 2 weeks after I gave birth to my 1st surrobaby. It was just the timing of it. We actually would have moved sooner, but I had to stay and give birth in California. At least I gave myself a little time to heal first and go to Disneyland of course.

John was still in the Navy and he'd either come home every so often or I'd fly out to spend a few days in San Diego with him. At one point, he was able to fly home every weekend. It was nice. I started to budget better. Really budget. I put money aside for everything- haircuts, entertainment, eating out, plane tickets. We got military discounts to fly him home, but it started to add up. Sometimes he'd have a bad week, or I'd have a bad week, and he'd fly home even though airfare was more than we should have paid for that weekend. So a little went on the credit card here and there.Then of course because he was home, we'd have to go out and do something, so we'd spend a little more money. I hate the fact that we'd pay off our cards and then slowly rack the debt back up. It's sickening.

He got out of the Navy in 2008.  We carefully planned it, attended classes together about getting out of the military. He talked to the Navy Reserves. He could get out and have a nice smooth transition. He wouldn't have to just jump into civilian life, he could be in the Reserves and still have some training, benefits and a little extra money.  He even had a job lined up. We were so excited. I calculated it all out and it was going to be about the same as having him in the Navy. Heck, it would cost us less, because we wouldn't have to fly him back and forth. (which of course was our own choice)

But the Navy Reserves didn't take him. We didn't get to keep our awesome benefits. (well we did for about a year at a heck of a price!) I was so mad! He could have stayed in the Navy active duty, but he couldn't go reserves?? He does get VA disability and that has helped us a lot! I was already matched and ready to go with my 3rd surrogacy at the time. In fact I was pregnant when John came home to live with us for good. That money helped supplement John's income and we paid off a thing or two and put more money into savings. It wasn't our plan that we'd *need* that money, but it sure was nice to have it.

Our time ran out with Tricare/Cobra and we had to get insurance through John's new job. We went from paying very little medical expenses, to paying about $10,000- $15,000 a year or more in medical expenses. So now,we usually don't have money to play. I've had to learn to be a very tight budgeter. It's nice though, because we only buy what we need or what we *really* want.

I started a change jar when we were living in our 1st house. I'd save my change and $1 bills. But then I'd spend it here and there. Now, we have a change jar and we keep adding to it until it is absolutely full. With our budget system, we pay bills from our checking account and everything else is split up into it's own little envelope or account. When the change jar is full, we cash it in at the bank and either add it to the budget funds or do something fun with it. It usually takes about 2 months to get full and it usually adds up to at least $40.00. It's kind of a fun way to save money and to see that every little bit adds up. If money's a little tight, I suggest paying for some things in cash and start saving every penny, nickel, dime and quarter. You could end up saving about $240 or more a year. Pretty painless to do so.

Even though it's tight for us, I started a transfer of $15 each paycheck into our savings. We can't just keep living paycheck to paycheck. Gotta get ahead somehow.

John is still trying to get into the Reserves. If you could throw a few prayers and good luck our way, we'd really appreciate it. In fact, he just filled something out online last week, so hopefully they'll be calling him!
I know it's not something I can count on, but it would give us better insurance and give us an extra $600 or so to work with. It would also allow John to keep part of his Navy retirement. I really would hate to see his 10 years go to waste. Not only that, but had we known the Reserves wouldn't take him (right away), he probably wouldn't have gotten out. Somehow we're making it work, but a little more money and a little less stress couldn't hurt.

1 comment:

  1. Ya I know all about money is tight...
    Probably a little too well.
    And YES, paying yourself first even if it is 10 or 20 dollars adds up...
    And is very worth it.


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