Recent Divine Discussions

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Monthly expenses, reducing grocery bill, and my weight loss Blog,

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have been packing up and getting ready for my move on 4/13. Credit card debt reduction plan is going well. I am down to only $5019 on two cards. These two cards are currently in my lock box and will not be used until their balances are zero. The only card I am using at this moment is my old Discover and I am paying the balance in full each month.

I have been searching for other ways to lower my expenses each month and therefore increasing the amount I am applying to kill my credit card debt. I think I may have found a couple of other ways:

Groceries:

In the past month or so my favorite news show, Fox 35, has featured this company called The Grocery Game on their segment called "Does it really work?". Its about a woman who found a way (I have no clue how) to basically use the combination of a grocery store sale and manufacturers coupons to lower your grocery bill. I mean a grocery total going from $42.86 to $1.82. And each time the news show tested the company's method it actually worked. All you need to do is sign up with the company, pay $11 for 8 weeks, receive a weekly list of products for sale at the store you chose, and the Sunday newspaper with all the manufacturer coupons inside. I could basically go from spending $200 a month on groceries to hopefully $50. I haven't joined them yet because I am moving and want to wait until I am settled in and can check out what grocery stores are in my area. Then I will pick one and sign up with The Grocery Game. I'll let you guys know how it turns out. If it does work then that will be another $150 savings per month that can go to credit cards. *crossing fingers*

Car Insurance:

I have my car insurance, life insurance, and rental insurance with the same company, Statefarm. I pay $123 a month for all three which, compared to most, is pretty damn good. I have been with Statefarm for about 5 years now and I think they are awesome. I have known the folks at my local Statefarm office since I had my daughter at the age of 20 and had to trade in my Supra for a Prism. I have been receiving a lot of mail from competitors like Geico and Allstate. All suggesting that I could save up to 40% on what I currently pay for car insurance. That would be a savings of about $40 alone on my car insurance (I pay $95) Now my thing is this: If I could get a cheaper price from somewhere else, would it be worth it? How committed should I be when it comes to paying off my debt? Is saving maybe an extra $40 bucks a month worth losing a company I am familiar with and trust?
Got a dilemma on this one!

Anyways thats all I can really work with at this point. I think I have exhausted all areas that I can lower. I have attached a comparison of my monthly expenses this month and what my expenses will be for April. I was able to save $310 a month. Pretty good huh?!



On another subject.......

I am going to start a weight loss blog today or tomorrow. My health is another Empowerment journey I am on. I hired myself a personal trainer at the beginning of this month and I have lost 12 pounds since March 5. My goal weight loss is 140 pounds by February of 2008. I have a short term goal of 75 pounds by August 25. My sister is getting married then. Anyways please feel free to read that blog. I will be posting recipes, exercise tips, detox methods, eating habits, and etc. And let me please state the following:

I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I am not licensed to give advice on weight loss. All I will be doing is documenting my journey and things that worked for me.

Aside from that feel free to read on. Well I gotta go finish packing. Have a great weekend and God Bless!

Dimps

Monday, March 26, 2007

March 2007 Financial Report

Everything has been working out better than expected this month. I believe I will reach some of my financial goals sooner than I predicted. I have attached a my financial statement for this month below:

As you can see I decreased my credit card debt by a substantial amount. I received a large credit from Cingular this month due to some errors on my billing. I did an upgrade several months ago through a another company, WireFly, and for some reason my whole account went to the nut house. After I received my second bill that was over $200 I decided to call in. I was being charged for calls after 9 pm and Cingular-to-Cingular calls. Anyways to make a long story short I received a $387 dollar credit which I had them mail back to me. I used that money and the money I had already set aside and paid a nice chunk off one of my cards. I have already reached my goal on my credit balance-to-credit limit ratio. Everything is looking good and on track except for bringing in extra monthly income.

I have been doing some research and I am down to the following choices of extra income:

  1. Babysitting (I so don't wanna deal with someone's bad azz kids...but I gotta do what I gotta do)
  2. Hair (I did this my first two years of college. I brought in about 200 a week.)
  3. Notary and Loan Origination (I will need to become a notary and find a company who will allow me to work from home and part-time)
I am leaning to the third option. I could make between $25 to $145 per loan and its not much to it. Only thing is I would have to pay around $100 to get registered and take the 3-hour mandatory course to become a notary. Options 1 and 2 don't require anything out-of-pocket, just a lil advertising. I am open to suggestions so feel free to give me some.

This month went real well. I cant wait until I move on April 13. I need a change of scenery. Living near one of the largest (if not THE largest) universities in the US does not give me the peace and quiet I crave.

Dimps Out

Friday, March 23, 2007

My new savings accounts

I opened two savings accounts last night. One will be for my Emergency Fund and the other for my Home Purchase Fund. And I also made $75 in the process.

I used ING Direct for my Emergency Fund and got a $25 bonus with only $1 opening deposit.

I used Citibank Ultimate Savings for my Home Purchase Fund. I will be receiving $50 in 90 days and I only opened the account up with $1.

I will fund my accounts starting next month. This month is pretty tight because of the move and the costs associated. But starting April my plan is to put away $50 a month into each account. Thats $100 towards savings a month. Doing that I should have at least $400 in each account by December. I am not worried because I know I will reach my goal balances in each account by February 2008. I still have bonuses from work (done twice a year and range from $1K to $25K) and my 2007 tax refund to take into account. So I am not worried. I need to focus as much of my left over income towards my credit card debt as possible.

I need to open a College Fund account for my daughter. Its harder trying select a bank for this purpose because I am not sure if 4%-6% APY is enough to have for a college savings fund. Should i be looking for more? Are the regular college fund accounts like the Coverdell Education Savings Account the best around. I mean Coverdell offers a 5% APY. I could find 15 other banks with a higher APY. HSBC offer 6%. Why not just open an account with them and make more money? I am confused. LOL. I will continue researching before I make a decisions. But in the meanwhile I am welcome to any who have advice on this.

Dimps Out

Thursday, March 22, 2007

High Yielding Savings Accounts

One of the most common things to pop out at me while researching the financial blogosphere was savings accounts with an APY of 4% or more. WOW! I didn't even know something like that existed. And I wanted to hop on one so quickly. I found out about the ING Direct Savings account thru Single Ma's blog and was about to open one up via one of her referral links. ING Direct was offering a $25 opening bonus but only with a minimum initial deposit of $250 with a curreny APY of 4.50%. Unfortunately I had to put a $400 deposit down for my apartment and did not have that extra $250 lying around. Thank goodness I didn't open it up. Looks like there are some banks offering pretty tempting incentives as well. One thing I have learned in the last couple of months since I started my Financial Empowerment Journey is to not be so quick to go with the first choice you see. Research, Compare, and and Choose the best option for you. With that said I have listed the following banks that offering real good incentives on savings accounts:

ING Direct
Interest Rate: 4.50% APY
New Account Bonus: $25 if referred by an existing member.
Minimum Balance: $25 bonus using promo code D264S
Fees: None
Incentives End: No end date (as long as promo code works)

CitiBank Ultimate Savings

Interest Rate: 4.65% APY
New Account Bonus: $50 sign-up bonus (received 90 days after opening account)
Minimum Balance: no minimum
Fees: None
Incentives End: 04/30/2007


HSBC Direct
Interest Rate: 6.00% APY
New Account Bonus: none (Dang! And they have the highest APY I can find)
Minimum Balance: no minimum
Fees: None
Incentives End: none (supposedly they have a poor customer service rating)



Thats all I got for now. Based on my research I think I will go with Citibank. I can open my account with $1 and get the $50 bonus in 90 days. Getting Green has a post on the top 14 high yielding savings accounts and their reviews. If you really wanna be a hustla I recommend opening accounts in the banks with no minimum opening balance and sign-up bonuses. You could have 4 savings accounts that you opened with a dollar in each and turn around earn yourself $120 bucks. Hmmmm?!!!....................I might have to try that out myself. LOL

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Credit Score

Mean Credit Score on 2/2/07 (average of all three credit scores):

595


Mean Credit Score as of 3/21/07 (average of all three credit scores):

644


Yeah man. 49 points in a month and a half! A sista is happy. :-D


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Other steps I am taking to achieve my goals

I have been looking for many other ways to achieve my financial empowerment goals. One important thing I am looking at is decreasing my expenses in order to increase money available to paying off my credit card debt. Here are the following expenses I can manipulate to achieve this:

Rent:

I currently pay $800 for a 2/1 in Orlando, Fl which is pretty good when the average is $950. My lease ends on April 30th so I have been apartment hunting for the last month or so. After many rental search engines I started looking at some of the apartment ratings websites. I found an apartment complex who had the highest rating I have ever seen. Out of 30 rating only 1 was negative. I called them and they were renting their 2/1 for $650. WHAT!! I gotta see this place! The complex is made up of beautiful single story apartment homes. The landscape is awesome and they have 3 pools. How can they rent so cheap?? They don't speed ANY money on advertising. None. This allows them to have lower rent. They only had one 2/1 available. So you know a sista filled out an application and put a deposit in fast. I know all will go well so I have no worries. $150 off my monthly expenses. $1800 saved over the course of a year lease.

Utilities:

I am contemplating not having any cable when I move into the new apt. I have done this before while in college and went a whole year without cable and had no problems. This will in turn save me $60 dollars a month. Over a whole year it would be a savings of $720. I cant really do anything about electricity, water, or sewer except use all three efficiently. As for my home phone, I currently have Vonage and I only spend $30 a month with there unlimited package. I researched my past year's usage history and have used an average of 400 minutes a month. Vonage has a lower package for $15 dollars a month that give you 500 anytime minutes with all the features. If I took this package instead I would save $180 over the course of a year.

Debt:

I have a personal loan with my Credit Union. I called to inquiry about getting my APR for the loan lowered since my credit score had increased so much. Guess what I found out?!? I can request that my loan be recalculated based on my higher credit score. And if the score lands in a lower APR bracket they will basically refinance the loan with the lower rate. And I can do this as many times as I want. Are you kidding me!!! And why wasn't I told this a year ago when I first took out the loan?? Anyways.....based on my new credit score I can get my current APR of 16.5% lowered to 13.5% which in turn lowers my monthly payment by $40. Thats $480 saved for the year....at least for now....cuz you best believe I am having it recalculated as soon as I reach the next lower APR bracket. MOFOS!!! :-D Now in terms of my other debt (credit cards, car loan, and student loan) I am going to wait until my credit score is above 700 to try to work on those. Or maybe I should give it a go just to see........I dunno.....I'll look into it.

Sooooo....

All together that is about $3180 that I could either save or direct to my credit card debt. All that and I really won't be cheating myself. My daughter and I will live in a beautiful neighborhood that is actually better than were we are currently staying. I own over 50 movies and can trade around with my friends. My daughter has too many to count. Having no cable also opens up an opportunity to be creative and do some projects with my daughter or take her to the park or even get my reading done. It opens much more opportunity to live life and not be glued to the t.v. My home phone wont be an issue. I have my personal cell phone and a work cell phone. So minutes can be juggled between the three. And any hustling on my current debt I can do and benefit from is ALWAYS good.

Once everything is finalized (i.e. secured place at apt complex, lower APR on loan, etc) I will recalculate my budget and credit card debt payoff plan. Shoot I maybe able to reach my goal earlier than expected! Now that would be awesome.

Just to give a lil insight for the folks who don't know me: I don't do this on my own. I don't have good luck. I have blessings. I have a rewarding and loving God who is always by my side. I know that if I want to succeed I will need him by my side. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."


Dimps Out


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Closing the credit cards that you have paid off

Another no-no that I forgot to mention on the last post is about closing you credit cards after you have paid them off.

Do not close any of your cards right after you have paid them off.

I left all my cards open. Some people close their credit cards as soon as they pay them off. This actually hurts you. One of the five factors that credit reporting agencies take into account when figuring out your credit score is the proportion of balances to credit limits on your revolving/charge accounts. Meaning they evaluate your total balances in relation to your total available credit on revolving/charge accounts, as well as on individual revolving/charge accounts. For a given amount of revolving credit available, a greater amount owed indicates a greater risk, and lowers the score.

The five factors that determine your credit score are the following:

  • Payment history – 35%
  • Amounts owed – 30%
  • Length of credit history – 15%
  • New credit – 10%
  • Types of credit used – 10%
I have a total of 11 credit cards. LOL. Yeah yeah....i know! Based on their APR,how long I have had them, and what types of incentives they offer on purchases, I have determined which ones I want to keep (5) and which ones will be closed (6). The closing process I have set up starts in August, 5 months after I paid the cards to be closed off and 4 months before I have paid off all my debt. All cards will not be closed at once. I will be closing them in one month increments, closing the card with the lowest credit limit first. That way it doesn't greatly impact my "credit balance-to-credit limit" ratio. I will have my credit cards paid off by 12/31/07 and my unwanted cards closed by 1/1/08. NIIICCEEEE!

I have attached my credit card debt analysis below. My
"credit balance-to-credit limit" ratio is 49.87%. If I had closed the credit cards I paid off my ratio would have been 96.28%! Horrible! Now do you see the difference. After doing some research the ideal ratio is between 35-40%. Ideal when you are trying to buy a home. Having less than 50% is actually pretty good. Paying another $2517 will get me down to the 35% I need before I can start house hunting.


I am closer and closer to my goal. What would be perfect right now is a raise or bonus at the old jobby job. ;-).

Dimps out.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Attacking my Credit Score

LOL!!!

Yeah man! I plan on attacking everything. Now for my credit score. I checked today and my credit score went up another 30 points! Wow. Is it that easy? All I did was pay a little more on my minimums. I can't wait to see what it does after all my balance transfers go through in the next few weeks. You know ya girl is happy!

Speaking of balance transfers. Advice for anyone who may be thinking of doing the same thing I did on my last post "Attacking my credit card debt":

Cut up ANY and ALL cards that you have transfered the balance of.

I cut up ALL my cards except the 2 cards that I transfered my balances to and 1 card for emergency purposes. And that card only has a $300 credit limit. This way I do not use the cards I just paid off and f-up my whole game plan. Now thats a big no-no.

I have been doing a lot of research to help myself better understand the world of finance, credit scores, credit cards, credit reports, investments.......the list goes on and on. There is so much information available on the internet alone, for anyones access. I believe its essential to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. That way you don't wind up in a situation like mine, like so many Americans.

Anyways thats my thought of the day. For those on an empowerment journey themselves: "Keep trucking! You can do it!"

Dimps out

Attacking my Credit Card Debt

For the last 2 months I have paid about 10 dollars over the minimum payment on ALL my credit cards. This resulted in my credit score increasing by 18 points (as 2/28/06). 18 dang on points!!!!! Just by paying an extra $100(total) for the last two months.

After my credit score went up the 18 points I decided to try and get myself a new credit card. I know they always say "dont apply for new credit cards" but the purpose of this card is not to spend money but to decrease it! Makes no sense huh?!! Let me go further.

Here are my criterias for the new credit card:

  • 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for at least 12 months
  • No fee on balance transfer
  • Awards or cash back on purchases
  • Low APR after promo ends

I found all those in Discover Gas Card (not only for gas purchases). I got approved for $4000. I transfered the rest of my credit card balances to the new card. So now i have ALL my credit card debt on 2 cards that both have 0% APR until April 2008 (I did the same thing but with a card I already had that was offering the 0% Balance Transfer). So what did this save me:

  1. I saved $140 a month on credit card payments (thats $140 dollars off my monthly expenses. Debt-to-income ratio is now down to 50%!!
  2. I saved $1442 in interest I would have accrued by the time I plan to pay these off (12/07).

So now when I pay my CC debt each month I actually see the balance going down.

Man.....God is soooo goood!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Journey to Financial Empowerment!

Welcome to my blog!

Ya girl been on this serious "BOUT MY MONEY" kick this last couple of months. Main reason I been ghost. (also hired myself a personal trainer...and she been kicking my azz....lol) This blog is to track my crusade to financial empowerment.


First let me give you a little insight to how ya girl's mind works. My zodiac sign is the oh so divine Capricorn and this is what the zodiac sign reveals about my money management:

Money management is just one of your many strengths, Capricorn. The secret to your financial success is your ability to find necessities at bargain rates. You can then put your extra money into savings accounts and investment portfolios. Waiting for interest to accumulate is no problem for you -- actually, you enjoy the process. Just resist the temptation to confuse your financial wealth with your personal value -- the two are totally unrelated.

How on POINT was this ('cept for the last sentence)!?!?!? Some who really know me would say EXTREMELY. You know I be bout my bargains. Now bout confusing personal value with how much money you have...........NEVA DAT! I do think that relieving yourself of financial debt makes life so much easier and more enjoyable. But the amount of money you have doesn't make you who you are. I will always be the same ol' Rosie even when I become a millionaire. LOL You know how?!!! I plan on giving as much as I can to my people and my community. Nothin makes me happier then seeing black folks succeeding and conquering.

Now back to financial empowerment. I have set some goals for myself. They are listed below:

  1. Pay off credit card debt by 12/31/2007.
  2. Increase my net worth to $50,000 by 04/01/2008. (I think it will be way above that since I will be purchasing a home by then. But gotta start somewhere.)
  3. Buy first home by March 2008.
  4. Get debt-to-income ratio down to under 40%. (currently at 53%)
  5. Have a credit score of 750 or higher by August 2007.
  6. At least $500/month of extra income by April. (bonuses from work, side jobs)
  7. Have $3000 saved in my Emergency Cash Fund.
  8. Have $4000 saved up in First Home fund.

Crazy huh!!! These goals are based on a meticulous analysis of my current financial situation with very lil assumptions (i.e. the extra income i plan on bringing in and no emergencies to seriously impact my money). And YES I will still have a LIFE while accomplishing all I listed. You bets believe I incorporated that into my analysis. I just realized something: I think being a Financial Advisor is my calling. I love me some numbers. I love managing numbers. I need to see if the plan I have set for myself works. If it does that will be proof enough for me that I am GOOD at this! Then I can get to working on making Lejiste, Inc. legit. WHAT!!!!!!!

Anyways thats what I have been about these last couple of months. Hit me up if you wanna know more details (naw i aint gonna tell yall my exact numbers). And feel free to get on da Financial Empowerment train. One more thing: I am very realistic. I know I will only reach my goals with persistance, determination, and GOD!!!

I listed some websites that have helped me and will continue to help me throughtout this journey:

  • www.elance.com (freelance work varying from proofreading documents to doing creating webpages)
  • www.singlemomandmoney.blogspot.com (homegirl got her ish right)
  • http://home.ingdirect.com/index.html (these folks offer a 4.50% APY on saving accts and 4% on ya checking.....yeah man! you can earn money on a CHECKING acct)
  • www.hsbcdirect.com/ (they offer 6% APY on savings)
  • www.thebeehive.org (all sorts of tools, from budgeting to creating resumes)