Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Osama bin Laden Saved My Finances

Kapow!  Kablam!  Splat!


Those are the sounds of our debt being slashed, cut down, and eliminated.

And I have Osama bin Laden to thank for it. 

Let me explain.
The original reason Mike was called up on orders is because base security was raised after the bin Laden incident – just a precautionary move. The base couldn’t staff this required manning solely with area Guard members, hence a phone call to Mike.

So Mike has been on full orders for the military the last two months, all because we finally caught International Terrorist Numero Uno. 

That’s a full-time job that just landed in his lap. Which translates to a windfall in monthly income. All of a sudden, we had a surplus of several thousand dollars.
We resolved from the get-go to take that money and B-E AGGRESSIVE with our debt. No crazy purchases or shopping sprees here.
So far, we’ve paid off these accounts IN FULL:

·        KAPOW!  Leftover personal loan from February - $500     

·        BAM!  Credit union credit card - $400                           

·        KABLOOIE!  Bank credit card - $850

·        THAWP!  Firestone account - $1300

It makes me giddy to know we have eliminated 4 monthly payments - over $3,000 of debt that’s gone.  That’s huge!  That frees up around $200 in payments each month.   

We’re also taking out sizable chunks of our Furniture Row account. Even though there’s no interest and the monthly payment is $45, it’s still another obligation. We now have the balance under $1000 thanks to a recent $400 payment.

One of my other goals with our surplus was to close some of these accounts once they were paid off – you know, remove the temptation. I learned, however, that closing a credit line can actually HURT your credit score.
Believe it or not, your credit score can take a ding if you close out your oldest lines of credit. For example, I have a card leftover from a bank we’re no longer with. I thought because it's orphaned and has a high interest rate (14%+), that it would be good to cut it up.

Wrong!  Because that account has been open for over 8 years, it’s actually my oldest line of credit. I don’t fully understand the logic of it all, but it would be detrimental to close it. So it’s been designated the “god-forbid-we-have-a-$2,000-emergency” or “Jennie’s-traveling-for-work” card and is safely residing in the lock box.

We also added Mike to our credit union card. Without trying to embarrass the poor guy, I have a credit score 100 points higher than his, mostly because all of our bills are in my name. So we’re trying to bump his up by getting his name on a few more well-managed accounts.

This is the same reason we’re not closing out the Firestone card, as it’s solely in his name. It’s also very good for emergency repairs, which we all know how disastrous those can be on a budget.

As successful as this round of debt slashing has been, we only eliminated 40% of our credit card debt.  Mike has a card with 4 grand on it that needs some serious attention. That’s not comfortable at all to have hanging over our heads, but we knew this would be the year we cleaned up our credit card act. 

At some point in the future, we’d like to be as “off grid” as possible with credit cards. We learned some hard lessons in our early days and still  worry about our dependence on them when our income situation gets fouled up. But it’s an ongoing process to live  responsibly within your means.

There’s no one way of driving down debt. The best advice I can give is to just tackle it with as much force as you can muster, even if that’s $25. Make peace with your debt and own it before it owns you.

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