We’re Paying off $100,000 Worth of Debt With the Help of My Freelance Writing Earnings (and how you can too!)

This post is a part of the Get Paid to Write for Blogs Course Launch! Get Paid to Write for Blogs is a brand new course created by Cat Alford of Budget Blonde. Cat makes a full-time income from writing for blogs, and this course will teach you how to do the same!

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgI’ve loved blogs since before I knew what a ”blog” was. It was actually my husband, Mike, who introduced them to me. He decided to start a hockey related blog in the early 2000’s and I have many vivid memories of him attempting to explain to me what he was doing on the internet. My love affair with blogs didn’t start until 2008, the year we were engaged.

It wasn’t the wedding that had me excitedly searching, it was the prospect of buying a home. Blogs consumed my life in planning our future home. I even started my own blog when we did, in fact, buy our first home in 2010. Though I loved reading blogs, I discovered that I didn’t get much satisfaction out of blogging myself until I started this one in 2012.

I was home all day on maternity leave, Mike and I were finally getting real about our financial situation (a baby has a way of forcing that sort of thing on you), and I was invigorated with these changes. I wanted to talk about the comparison of diaper pricing, coupon cutting, debt slaying and future plans with anyone who would listen. I LOVED talking about money. I also loved learning about personal finance. Between a combination of boredom (newborns sleep, a lot) and Mike’s honest frustration of hearing me talk about grocery sales every day, I decided to put my passion back into a blog as a way to release my energy, this, before I knew that personal finance blogging was a niche.

I didn’t read a single personal finance blog (that’s a lie, I knew about Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s site), until after I started this one. I was already on Twitter and from their ”recommended” following I came across what sounded like another site along the same lines as mine (it was See Debt Run) and thought ”Holy crap, more people who like to talk about money and debt as much as I do?!…” Little did I know, I had accidentally fallen into a massive blogging niche which has quite literally changed my life.

I knew people made money online (hello, I was obsessed with YHL) but I didn’t have a clue how. I really wanted to find another income stream to help my family while I was on maternity leave and more specifically, to help us pay our debt off. The first thing I noticed about the PF niche was how altruistic it was. Everyone was (is) so involved in helping everyone, it’s like a little family. I would ask questions, a lot of them, to anyone who would answer about how to make money. Everyone was very helpful and they all suggested starting with freelance writing.

There have been many people who have helped me succeed in earning money online, to which I am so, beyond, grateful for. I can honestly say, when it comes for freelance writing, Cat from Budget Blonde was is one of the key people in helping me pursue my gigs. I got my first gig December of 2012 and haven’t looked back.

I have been following Cat since the beginning, I mean way before she was the infamous Cat from Budget Blonde who gets published on little sites like Huffington Post. I was reading her blog back in her mostly DIY, newlywed days, but to be honest, had forgotten about her until I saw her comment on one of the other sites I was reading in 2012 and made the connection between ”old DIY Cat” and the now ”infamous PF freelancing Cat” we all know her as today. She’s amazing.

One of the first financial moves we made when we decided to get real about getting our finances in order was to consolidate a bunch of our ”random debt” (I may have put some tuition on credit cards…), the total of this debt was just shy of $25,000. In December of 2012 we made our first payment towards that loan, this loan in currently sitting at $5,000 and will be paid off in October, 18 months before it’s ”payoff date” mostly thanks to my freelance earnings. I started this blog with about $110,000 worth of non-mortgage debt, thanks to hard work and being able to make money online, our debt is sitting around $65,000 today with a goal to be eliminated in about 28 more months.

If you’re trying to reach a financial goal, or if you’re simply looking for an alternative income stream, I can’t recommend freelance writing enough. I can easily do it after my daughter is in bed or on weekends when I have a little more free time. As long as I have access to the internet it is something I can do anywhere in the world and you can too!

Get Paid to Write For Blogs is a comprehensive online course that teaches you everything you need to know about getting hired to write for blogs. With 29 videos within 8 modules, this course covers every single step to start a successful and lucrative writing career online. Use MY LINK to get 15% off your course!

I’ll Be Back.

It’s been crazy around here and I didn’t get to finish the post I had scheduled for today so it will have to wait for another day!

I won’t be gone for long, just a few days. Mike and I took an extended weekend leading to the holiday Wednesday here in Canada (Canada Day) which we will be spending with family and friends. I will actually be unplugged for a few days and I can’t wait. We’re heading to the cottage Saturday for a few days sans Wi-Fi and honestly we both need it. As much as I love the internet I also love getting away from being so easily contacted a few days a year.

I hope everyone has an amazing weekend, this is where I’ll be:189808_10100187144403859_1381570635_n

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a post I’m super pumped about so make sure you stop by!

Expect More Volatility in Oil Prices Moving Forward

To the relief of many Americans, the price of crude oil collapsed over the last nine months, leading to the lowest prices at the pump since 2010. In July of 2014, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil cost $147, while in March 2015 the price had dropped to as low as $42, rebounding in April to around $55 a barrel, where it has stabilized.

This dramatic drop in price can be attributed to domestic inventories built up by the explosion of hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling. These two technologies are unlocking copious amounts of oil from the gigantic shale deposits underlying large swaths of the U.S.

A strong dollar combined with geopolitical factors, such as the potential for the lifting of sanctions on Iran, also have contributed to declining oil prices. Meanwhile, the demand for oil has slumped, due to a down economy in Europe and China, driving prices even lower.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC nations have continued to pump oil, hoping to maintain their global market share and under-price the American shale drillers.

Slashing oil exploration

With all this downward pressure on prices, oil company executives at CERAweek in Houston reported in April that they expect WTI to hover around $60 a barrel for the foreseeable future. As a result, U.S. drillers have begun to slash jobs and spending, while cutting exploration investment.

In fact, so many oil rigs have been removed from production that the number still in operation is at its lowest level since October 2010, when the shale boom first took off. In spite of the fact that crude oil stockpiles have reached record highs, production levels are expected to remain high for the rest of 2015 and into 2016.

Push and pull in oil prices

What goes down must eventually come up, and some energy traders are beginning to bet on a future tightening of the oil market—caused not only by reduced production, but also by geopolitical events, such as the civil war in Yemen with air strikes from Saudi Arabia. That unrest could spread, endangering oil transport between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Private equity funds, including pension funds and insurance companies, are showing some interest in getting into energy stocks at ground level, presumably because they believe oil prices will go much higher in the future.

At the same time, notes Phillip Streible, analyst at RJO Futures, gasoline stocks are at a five-year low, so crude oil prices should get a boost as refineries look to replenish their supplies. With these and other competing forces having an impact, oil prices could remain unstable for some time to come.

Is Disorganization Killing Your Budget?

Too young to prep her to be a keeper?

Too young to prep her to be a keeper?

I am a fairly organized person. I rarely lose track of things and don’t forget important tasks or events. Comparatively speaking though, between Mike and I, he would probably laugh at me for even putting ”me” and ”organized” in the same sentence. Mike is a professional organizer in the sense that he’s a project manager for major engineering projects so really has his act together in all walks of life. Between the two of us we’re pretty good.

As organized as we try to be, disorganization still has a way of creeping into our lives. Sometimes it’s predictable, other times it catches us off guard. Whatever the reason, every time it happens, it causes chaos to our budget.

Maria started playing soccer this summer. This new event in our schedule is the exact thing that has the potential to bust our budget. The way the times work out between Mike picking her up, getting her ready and then backtracking to pick me up to be at the field on time, we as a family don’t have time to eat before her practice. By 7:10pm (when soccer is over), I’m still in my scrubs, crazy hungry and rushing home to get Maria fed and ready for bed.

Because we haven’t yet figured out a system that works for us on Thursdays, disorganization had led to the fact that the past three weeks we’ve (Mike and I) ended up grabbing take out on the way home from the field. Money we never plan, until that moment, on spending.

I live by my Excel spreadsheet. I don’t think a day goes by that I’m not looking at it, adding something, changing an amount or just logging in to see where we stand. Given that I have, in the past, lived without some form of money monitoring, I can say without a doubt that disorganization when it comes to day-t0-day finances is suicide to your financial health. We don’t budget every penny, but we do we closely watch them and without the monitoring in place we’d be total failures.

I notice other instances in my day-to-day routine that have the potential to ruin our budget too. Simple things like ensuring I make our lunches the night before. If I didn’t I know there is no way it would happen in the morning and we’d all need to buy lunch. Making lunches is one of my least favorite tasks but one that I get the most satisfaction out of.

If I let my laundry pile up, I know it will have a negative effect on other areas of my life and the compounding of these events kills our budget. It’s totally predictable too: slack on laundry leads to piles everywhere, leads to us ripping rooms apart looking for clothes, messy rooms everywhere leads to frustrations, leads to negative attitudes, leads to throwing caution out of the window which leads to nefarious budget busting activities…

Obviously a solution to disorganization goes beyond just staying on top of laundry but it’s a big start for me and my family. In order to combat disorganization to the best of my ability, I do things like organize our family calendar, make to-do lists, budget, meal plan and try to predict as many events as possible. This is a simplistic solution to a very involved problem but look for ”leaks” in your daily life- like laundry- and start there. Overtime it can have a monumental effect.

How does disorganization effect your budget?

Perspective.

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I hope you enjoy your day as much as a three year old in a $10 inflatable pool!

”A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”

We all need it from time to time. These past two months have been tough for our family for a few reasons, tomorrow being a pinnacle moment for us. Though I love you all, and as open as I try to be, there are some details of my life that aren’t appropriate to share with the world. I will share my current thought processes with you all to see if you can gain any perspective about your own lives.

These past two months have put money in many different lights for me. I am so grateful for the ability to earn it and use it. I am so thankful for our emergency fund even though, given a few minor events in the past two months (just to add to everything else going on), we have nearly depleted it. I am also, given events in our lives, more determined than ever to reach our financial goals.

Life is scary short. Both good and bad events in my life have magnified this point more times than I’d like these last few weeks. As our home was full of people who love and support us last weekend to celebrate Maria’s third birthday, I had an overwhelming feeling of ”I don’t give a shit about money anymore, THIS is what is important in life”. I can totally see why people say ”screw it” and live life as far as their remaining dollars will take them. Thankfully I was able to refocused my thoughts into determination to reach our goals instead.

I love money. I love talking about both saving it and spending it. Talking about mistakes and major victories but I need a reminder sometimes that it isn’t, in fact, everything. While it is a necessary tool to succeed in life, don’t let it rule your life. Enjoy all the non monetary aspects in your life- waking up in the morning, the ability to safely go outside your home, being loved, loving someone, your children and family. Only then will you really appreciate what you have.

Have a great day and I hope it’s full of all kinds of non-monetary amazingness!

How We’re Going To Afford Purchasing a Second Car

I have made mention that we were looking to get second vehicle. We’ve done well with one vehicle for some time but with my commute to work, Maria’s involvement in activities increasing and Mike still occasionally traveling out of town for work (taking our only vehicle with him), the time has come. We were hoping to wait until the debt was paid off but neither one of us is interested in the scramble that we have going on now any longer than we have to. We would 100% be screwed if we didn’t have our family to rely on. While I love them, and know they don’t mind helping us out, we would like the independence from them and their vehicles.

Before we could figure out a timeline about when this purchase is going to happen, we needed to figure out a target price. The car we buy will be used and likely a private sale. We also need to consider additional costs involved such as registration and paying for something like a CarProof report or mechanic exam. The last thing I want is to buy a car that I later finds out has a lien on it or something!

After doing a few days of research, we decided a target price of $5,000 would get us the kind of vehicle we’re looking for. Moderate mileage, safety inspected done, reliable and less than about 8 years old. We want a car that’s easy on gas since we have a SUV crossover now that isn’t so great with city driving (but satisfies our requirement for a larger vehicle for Mike’s work equipment). We’ll save an additional $500- $1,000 with a max savings target of $6,000 which will be able to take care of stuff mentioned above such as registration.

In order to do this, changes will have to be made. We’re not going to start saving for this until November at the earliest. We want to finish paying off the loan we’re currently working on before we look at saving for a car. As long as stuff like hot water heaters stops breaking on us we should be on target to have this loan paid off in October and start saving for the car by November. I’m not interested in buying a vehicle in the winter (in case we don’t get winter tires with the purchase it’s a cost we could save up for), so we won’t buy until probably May 2016.

This gives us seven months to save $6,000, a monthly target of about $850. Given that we put a minimum of $1,000/month towards this current loan, alone, I know the money will be in our budget, it does however mean that the next loan in line to be paid off will be delayed. It will still be getting some additional payments (anywhere from $150-$400 extra per month), it won’t get the full payment until after we buy the car. It’s too far in the future to know if we will be able to ”make up” the money we’re putting into the car, which is lost in extra debt payments, but I sure hope even with a $5000-$6,000 setback we can still meet out target of November of 2017 to be (non-mortgage) debt free, I’m just not 100% sure how I’m going to make it happen!

One Thing You Can Do to Save You Thousands!

This is a post topic I have started on and off over the last year but completing it came at a great time this week….

wpid-20150610_231245-1.jpgSomething that seriously lacks among most of my peers is the ability to ”fix” anything of their own. They drop all the hemming off at the tailor, throw away mildly broken objects, hire house cleaners and call professional help when anything needs to be done. Most all of these things are foreign to me.

I do all my own basic hemming, a skill I learned from sewing lessons I was enrolled in back in elementary school. If you don’t know how to do very basic hemming it’s a skill that you can easily learn. Buy a cheap sewing machine and have someone show you! If you don’t have a friend or family member to help, check out a local craft store and see if they host any classes. I’ve used basic sewing skills to hem many, many, pants (joys of being short), sew curtains and fix basics like zippers. I once had a zipper repaired in an emergency (on the way to a wedding and dress ripped open emergency) and paid more for the zipper than I paid for the dress!

My skills are limited to basic sewing, repairs like vacuums, painting, some DIY and honestly, patience. My husband however is good with more technical stuff like hotwater tanks leaking all over the floor. I went into our laundry room the other night to get a cloth to wipe up a mess and realized how humid it was in the room…then realized my feet were wet…then realized the water tank was leaking all over the floor. Awesome. Mike was able to turn off the power and water intake off, we wiped up the water that was seeping into the surrounding walls and called it a night. I spent all night worrying about more potential damage and cost.

We had an emergency fund that was already hit once this month and was really hoping we didn’t have to dip into our upcoming trip savings. Thankfully with the skill-set between Mike, my father-in-law and Mike’s grandfather, what I was told was going to cost over $1,000 with a plumber, they did for $343, the cost of a new tank- on sale. If I didn’t have the skills of these men in my life, I would have totally depleted my savings since quite honestly I have no idea how to solder pipes, or wire electricity beyond a wall outlet.

Obviously I don’t recommend DIYing a hot water tank install off a YouTube video if you don’t confidently know how to actually do these things since it’s a safety issue, but these are skills Mike has picked up and learned over the years. I can’t even begin to imagine how many thousands of dollars we have saved doing the work ourselves, mostly because we made time growing up to learn these basics and value a dollar.

It seems simple, but basics like learning to cook, sew, repair things is a lost art. We live in such a fast paced time we don’t have time for anything anymore. No time to teach or learn these skills let alone implement them- it’s always faster and easier to have someone else take care of it all but at what cost? Taking time to learn basic, useful, life skills can save you thousands in your lifetime.

What skill set do you have that has saved you big bucks?

How Large Is the Medical Debt Problem in The United States?

If the credit status of 43 million Americans is an accurate reflection of the US medical debt problem, then the situation is huge. It’s a concern because not only do those US citizens have burdensome debts because of their healthcare expenses, but those unpaid sums are now affecting the creditworthiness of the individuals. Some troubling statistics show just how upsetting the situation is:

  • One out of five credit histories show a black mark because of overdue medical sums.
  • Healthcare bills make up the number one source of debt in the country and the leading cause of bankruptcy.
  • 35% of Americans have financial obligations that have gone to collections.
  • In 2012, $21 billion in medical debt was paid out by American consumers and those numbers are growing.
  • According to some watchdog groups, many of those debts are undeserved.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to situation: the hospital billing system is complicated and prone to errors and there are no standardized pricing guidelines for services.

Billing Errors and Overpayment Trouble

One study conducted by NerdWallet established that nearly half of all Medicare claims had billing errors. It is significant that those errors resulted in overpayment to Medicare – mistakes that proved costly to hospitals. The study only took Medicare information into account, but the situation is spread throughout the entire hospital billing system. Consumers could protect themselves from paying extra by carefully reviewing all of their medical bills and insurance reimbursements. However, the billing process is complicated and drawn out. Compounding the problem is the fact that most consumers aren’t aware of the magnitude of this problem and don’t feel comfortable working with the hospital billing departments.

The Lack of Standard Pricing

The second part of the problem is that the same procedure might cost one amount in one state, but 50 times that amount in another state. Although prices vary by state, there is also a great deal of variation between prices of healthcare facilities located in different cities within the same state. It isn’t possible for US consumers able to plan ahead for their medical procedures because this information isn’t often made available to them.

A Medical Quandary

According to a report issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), hospital billing practices are confusing at best and the system for reporting is a jumbled mess. Remarking on the situation, the director of the CFPB said, “Getting medical care should not make your credit report sick.” Faced with additional debts because of healthcare costs they can’t afford or skipping treatment altogether, consumers often choose being either physically sick or financially sick.

Commercial Mortgage Debt Is Rising

Commercial mortgage debt has been steadily rising over the last decade. This points to positive trends occurring in the economy. The increased optimism is prompting borrowers to apply for loans and banks to approve them. If you plan to borrow money to grow your business, it would be wise to understand the economic changes that are driving businesspersons to take out mortgages, learn the difference between commercial and residential loans, and educate yourself about the mortgage application process.

Increases in Commercial Debt

Because of improvements in the economy, more commercial loans were taken out by businesses to fund growth. Some favorable factors contributing to this trend include:

  • Rising property values
  • Improved fundamentals
  • Lower interest rates

Commercial vs. Residential Mortgages

When individuals apply for residential mortgages to buy homes, their abilities to pay back the funds depend on:

  • Credit scores
  • Length of time employed in their field
  • Cash for down payments

When businesses apply for commercial mortgages, there are differences, such as:

  • Fannie Mae or another governmental agency doesn’t ultimately back the commercial loans.
  • Interest rates are higher, because commercial loans are riskier for banks.
  • Loan repayment terms are often shorter than residential mortgage terms.

Commercial Mortgage Process

If you are planning to apply for a commercial mortgage to take advantage of growth opportunities for your company, you should prepare yourself by asking a few questions and gathering documentation. For example:

  • Decide how you will meet loan repayment terms. Will you take a loan with a balloon payment? If so, will you be able to pay your loan or refinance within the specified time limit?
  • How much should you borrow? Because commercial mortgage lenders don’t usually allow second mortgages, assess your ability to come up with a down payment and qualify for the loan. Expect to pay 20 to 25% for your down payment.
  • Think about the time frame to secure a commercial loan. These mortgages often take longer to obtain than residential mortgages, so plan for this. Getting pre-qualified can speed the process along somewhat.
  • Gather your documentation before you apply for the mortgage. Typically, you will need corporate documents, asset statements, business taxes, leases, and the personal financial records of each business owner.

The economy is growing and it is a good time to expand your business. Whether you’re planning to build a new facility, invest in multifamily apartment complexes, or buy an additional property to house an expansion of your company, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row before applying for a mortgage. Commercial mortgages are more challenging to obtain than residential loans, but the number of mortgages being granted shows that this is an optimum time to move toward expansion.

 

 

May 2015 Debt Repayment Update: Owning a Vehicle Sucks Edition

wpid-20150510_180627.jpgI hated May. May was a hot terrible mess of a month for so many reasons and I’m glad is over. With the exception of Mother’s day, I could have done without the entire month.

Know what else I hate. My vehicle. We have a Dodge Journey and though it works well for us for so many reasons when something goes wrong it’s awful. I thought our old VW was expensive to fix, I thought buying a domestic vehicle would be cheaper, nope. I already wrote about the expensive fiasco that was our tires last year…then again at Christmas time with our winter tires…and now trying to get the winter tires off.

Long story short (I’m sick of reliving it) our vehicle has special lock nuts on the tires which require a special ”key” to unlock when tire changeover happen, when we went to have winters off we were informed that whoever put them back on stripped our key and they couldn’t be removed (no way of proving if it happened when winters were put on or when they guy doing change over who informed us did it). One would think it should be as easy as buying a new key but nope, it isn’t, after many trips to the dealership the lock nuts were removed (replaced with normal, non locking nuts) and after a bill of $250 to remove three nuts (one was successfully removed prior to) we were able to change our tires…not happy at all.

May was an expensive month which ultimately effected our ability to put as much as we’d like towards debt but we still managed something. In May we ended up putting $1,975 towards debt. I like over $2,100 but it is what it is…we’ll have some months better than others I guess. I’m looking forward to the fall when our expenses should go down a bit. I’m still hopeful that we’ll have our next loan paid off in October though, bad months aside.

The summer will be super busy so I’m sure it will fly by. I’m really looking forward to that last payment on this next loan come October!

How is everyone else making out with their goals?