The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Today's thought: 
Your struggles give you a testimony to  help others. You can't be a student forever. Be a teacher.

August 31, 2014

This is my anniversary. One year ago today, I was preparing to spend my first night in my car.

What we have accomplished:
- eliminated credit card debt
- begun renovations on the house
- begun paying down student loans
- established an emergency fund (and it has come in handy!)
- given to others
- learned survival skills (cooking on a grill, staying warm)
- become more disciplined  (more punctual, more organized, better at planning ahead)
- learned that I have some courage and dedication that I didn't know I had before

This upcoming year’s goals:

1. One year from now I want to be back in an apartment with my dog Jefferson back in my care.
2. I want my parents’ house to be fully renovated with them living in it (they won't have full-size appliances or central air conditioning, but we will all celebrate nonetheless).
3. I want to be current on student loan payments.
4. I want to continue to have an emergency savings fund (it won’t be complete by then, but I don’t want to raid it).
5. I want to give to causes I care about.

6. I want to still be at this current job contributing at least the minimum to the matching 401K. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Someone visited my world of one

A few days ago, someone made a donation on my blog. I felt a very strong sense of pressure mixed with anxiety.

I feel so accountable to use that donation wisely and stick to the plan of renovating the house and getting out of debt. That donation was like listening to a cheerleader. I really appreciate it. 

I write this blog to help me organize my thoughts and release emotions. I don't share the information in this blog with anyone I know personally. No one in my life knows about this blog. So, for a stranger to come across the blog and offer some encouragement - I feel like a visitor just stepped into my world of one. 

Thank you, donor!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How do you know who the rich people are in your life?

August 14, 2014

On the Get Rich Slowly blog today, the topic was about asking people you personally know for financial advice if they are where you want to be. Someone brought up an excellent question in the comments section – how do you know WHO is where you want to be? It’s taboo to talk about money!

While I still have a lot to learn about PF and a long way to go to get where I want to be (about 4 years according to my spreadsheets), I still think I’ve learned enough to share with others. The challenge is finding the BEST WAY to share. With immediate family I can easily bring up the topic of personal finance without sharing too much about my situation (unless I want to). With friends, I found it’s easiest to mention Dave Ramsey or Michelle Singletary and how I’m following their advice – not how I’ve arrived. Two people have been receptive to that so far.

It’s easier to talk poor than to talk like I’m doing well. I think that’s because I’m surrounding by so many other struggling people that talking like I’m doing well without offering to help others out seems insensitive. 

Also see my post on 7-27-14 along the same lines of this subject. 

Locked out of Storage Unit

August 14

Today I left the gym and headed to storage to change my clothes. Then I remembered that I left the key card to the storage building INSIDE my storage unit! I still had on yesterday’s clothes. No department store was open at 7:30 am so I could at least buy a different shirt to wear to work.

I decided to go and see if somehow I could get in. Maybe another customer would be there, or the staff would be empathic enough to open their office doors early for me.

Plan B: wear the same clothes to work that I wore yesterday. I would divert coworkers’ attention from my clothing using my charming and bright personality, enhanced by engaging conversation and eye contact that just takes in the soul!

As it turns out, the storage office opens at 7:30, so they had no problem letting me in.

But, man, I’ve got to keep up with the key card better. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


August 12, 2014

I’ve had 3 weird dreams 3 days in a row. The first dream I had while still at Jasmine’s. I dreamed that her brother-in-law saw me moving out the last of my things and said to me, “You need to pay your debts and get your finances in order – stop depending on other people.” I was offended.

I can’t remember the second dream which I had during my first night back in my car, but I woke up feeling scared/anxious. I think I dreamed that someone caught me sleeping in my car, or that I was close to being caught. I dunno. If I remember, I’ll come back and edit this post.

The third dream was last night. I dreamed that someone was walking their dogs and the dogs sensed something in my car, so they came over and started sniffing. The owner then looked in the car and said, “There’s somebody in that car!” There were other neighbors around, and 3 ladies walked over. One of them was a teacher from a former school of mine. She looked puzzled, but rather kind and sympathetic. Some kids went in their houses and brought out blankets to give to me. Another brought some books. They were happy to help the homeless lady living in her car. I felt a little embarrassed being discovered by this former coworker, but glad to have help, even though I really didn’t have room in my car or storage for extra books or blankets.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rethink how important credit scores are

Today, the company that created the famous FICO credit score announced that they are changing the way they calculate your creditworthiness. They made changes to help people with medical debt, no credit history, or debts sent to collections. Of course, the bottom line is that bankers and lenders want your money and your less-than-ideal credit scores were getting in the way.

A lot of emphasis is placed on having good credit scores. Do you know what the purpose of a credit is? The purpose of the credit score is to help you get debt. If you have a good credit score, you can get the best interest rates on car and mortgage loans. That measn you will still pay thousands of dollars in interest, just not as much as the next guy.

You know what’s better than a credit score? Paying cash.

Maintaining a good credit score requires some work (checking credit reports for errors, getting credit cards (but not too many and not too few), using the cards without maxing them out, etc, etc). Before you go through a lot of trouble to build credit scores, determine if you want to focus on credit scores or if you want to focus on being debt-free. According to the verse above, it has always been God’s will that we would be lenders and not borrowers.

Some people who work for financial institutinos, the military, or the government need good credit scores on their jobs, but that’s by far not most Americans.

If you’re still concerned about a less-than-optimal credit score, just keep this in mind - by becoming a better steward, paying off debts, and paying bills on time, your credit score will improve anyway.

1. Ask yourself what you think you will need credit for in the near future? A new car? A mortgage? Some other loan (furniture)?
2. Think of ways you can prepare to make future purchases without needing a loan and credit score.
3. Ask a banker what is the process for obtaining a mortgage without a credit score (using manual underwriting). You may be surprised to find that it is possible to get a mortgage without a credit score.

Starting night school

Today was good. First day at work - teacher's retreat.

Last night was comfortable. The gym has changed a bit - equipment was moved around and the locker room seems a little rundown. The television didn't work and one sink was clogged. I made it to work on time with a snack for breakfast.

Now, I'm at the library working on classwork. I set aside some of the money I earned this summer to pay for CEU courses that I have to take before the year is up, so I'm taking both courses now - before the evening job begins in September. It's a lot of work taking two courses while starting a new teaching job, but the last time I lived in my car, my discipline improved significantly so we just might make this work. (BTW, it feels so good to say I set the money aside ahead of time. I didn't know exactly when I would sign up for the courses, but it felt good to know the money was there for whenever I was ready).

That said, I just blew the first week by not getting a paper turned in tonight. It took a while just navigating the new layout of the courses. That's my excuse. I think I'll just start on week two assignments...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back on the Streets

August 10, 2014

So, here I go again. I spent the day reading Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover and watching Youtube videos from Debt Free Squad as well as cleaning my bedroom and the bathroom.

I took the last few things to storage. I am shocked. Everything I own fits in storage except my bedding, food, computer, gym bag, and cleaning supplies. Those items fit in my trunk. I didn’t think it was possible. I had considered getting a second storage unit temporarily until I settle into my classroom, but it’s not necessary.

I also cooked some tofu and made a smoothie – trying to use up the last of the refrigerated food that I have before I leave Jasmine’s place. I’ve been thinking about how tomorrow’s routine will go – revisiting the gym for the first time in 2014, getting to work on time and dressed appropriately after changing clothes at the storage unit.

I didn’t think I would be as nervous about this as before, but I am. The same risks are there even though I’m more skilled at it this time around or at least I know what to expect. I still have the risks of getting caught sleeping in my car. I still have to live by the 3 rules – never be hungry, never be tired, never be dirty. I still have to be stealth and invisible. I still have to make it all count. I have to keep up the gazelle intensity and make sure I’m not sleeping in my car for nothing. The goals the first year were to pay down enough debt to not live paycheck to paycheck anymore – to have a little cushion. That’s done.

The goals now are to renovate parent’s home and to make these new financial habits solid. I don’t want to ever end up where I was before – at least not by my own fault. God can use financial hard times to cause us to grow and learn, to sharpen our character. However, sometimes we bring these times on ourselves and that’s what I did. I don’t want to do that again.

Wish me Godspeed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Moving Out and Moving on Up!

Moving Up

I am so excited. Yesterday was new employee orientation on my job. I met new, interesting, fun people. We also spent 2 hours filling out paperwork and listening to presenters talk about insurance (health, life, vision, dental , short and long term disability) and retirement, and other benefits (travel assistance, EAPs, on and on and on). It was information overload, but it feels good to have affordable benefits again.

I wasn't even interested in retirement at this point (though I know I should be). I contributed a little by default to  my new 401K at the last job, but last night I actually read the whole booklet about retirement plans and signed up for a new 401K with my new job. It was actually interesting to read and think about.

I have had private health insurance for 4 years because my job situation was not stable and I wanted to ensure that I was always covered. Well, my premiums have been raised twice in the past year and I recently got a letter stating that my plan will be discontinued Dec 31 of this year. This job health insurance costs less than mine, has great benefits, and came just in time. I haven't had my eyes checked in maybe 7 years. Now I can get them checked and afford new eyeglasses.


Moving Out

Well, Jasmine's mother-in-law is moving in around the beginning of next month, so I've been preparing to move out since the end of July (after summer school ended). I think today will be the day. Pretty much everything is in storage again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to track financial progress

When you have a big goal (like finishing school, improving your finances, or being healthy), it’s good to find more than one way to measure progress. When I was trying to lose weight, the scale eventually reached a plateau and it seemed like I was not making progress. However, my stomach continued to look flatter and flatter and I was able to fit into my old clothes better and better.  Those were other ways of seeing progress.

When paying down debt, it can seem to take forever. Here are different ways to track financial progress. 

1. Amount of money in savings – Track how much money you have in savings each month. Even though my focus is on paying off debt, I send $100 a month to a long-term savings account. Even if the debt doesn't seem to budge, I can look at the slowly growing savings account for comfort.

2. Amount of debt paid – Track how much debt you have paid off total. I keep a list made in Microsoft Word that lists this information. I also have the thermometer and the little bug thingy at the bottom of this screen.

3. Bills paid off/accounts closed – When you start paying off debts, you should list all of your debts from smallest to largest. Then begin paying them off in that order. I paid off 7 small debts in the first 2 months. I got several pieces of mail that said, "Account closed," "Balance $0," or "Paid in full." I could have wallpapered my wall with those letters - but I didn't have a wall since I lived in my car. The point is, crossing those accounts off my written list was a way to track progress. 1/2 of my debts were eliminated in 2 months.

4. Things you can do now that you couldn’t do before - I use to frequently look at calendars to see how many days till the next payday. Now I don't look at calendars as regularly for that information. I used to drive to my hometown for visits because it was cheaper than flying. Now I have a choice. 

July review

In July, we (Christ and I)

1. earned summer pay and immediately set aside money to cover tuition. I have to take two classes before year’s end to renew my teaching license - $1200 total.

2. cooked more meals at home.

3. created new learning materials during the natural course of teaching this summer. I plan to post them on TPT.

4. total paid towards debt = $13,485. Disciplined self to add large tax refund to debt this month. In the past, I would have rationalized that I need money in savings because…what if? Then I would have gradually spent it.

5. wrote our 100th post!