Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mortgage Payoff Progress for December 2012 with Chart

My wife and I moved in to our new home in February of 2010.

We have a conventional, fixed-rate, 15-year mortgage.  We recently reduced the interest rate on our mortgage.

Our goal is to pay it off our mortgage in less than ten total years.

As of December, we have made 33 regular, monthly mortgage payments.

We have also made several additional principal-only payments.

Our mortgage payment is drafted from our primary checking on the first day of each month. Additional principal-only payments are made throughout each month, as we earn additional income and find ways to decrease budgeted-for expenses.

Here is our most recent chart –

chartdec12

 

The chart shows two percentages:

The blue percentage is how much I still owe – the balance.

The red percentage is how much I have reduced – the paid.

Now that we have lowered the interest rate on our mortgage, a larger percentage of our regular monthly payment will go towards principal, which rocks. Also, if we continue to make our old payment, we’ll pay of our mortgage even sooner, which rocks, too!

We are still sending extra, principal-only micro-payments.

Unlike credit card companies, our mortgage provider does not apply micro-payments throughout the month.  Payments are processed on a single day.  We believe in  a “hands-on” approach to debt reduction.

This chart does not represent how much of my house I actually “own”. It simply reflects how much of our mortgage balance we have paid.

We have made 33 regular payments and have lived in the house for a little more than two years. Our contractual remaining term is 12 years and 3 months, but our actual remaining term is 11 years and 10 months. We have reduced the length of our mortgage by 5 months!

View all post related to our mortgage payoff progress.

Side note:  Our goal is to own our home, mortgage-free.  Home prices in our rural section of the country have remained relatively stable and anecdotal evidence (prices of similar homes which have recently sold near ours) would indicate that the value of our home has increased, slightly, over the past couple of years.

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Plant A Garden

Last year, I planted a small garden.

Throughout the spring and summer, we had fresh strawberries, butter beans, and onions.

This year, I plan to expand my garden.  I will be adding a couple of raised beds – and trying my hand at growing watermelons, potatoes, and assorted beans.

My goal is to be healthy – and frugal.  Here are some tips for planting a garden, without breaking the bank.

Place your garden in a convenient location.

This is crucial.  Take in to consideration sunlight, soil conditions, and proximity to water.  If you are dragging hoses back and forth, watering the garden will become a real chore.

Buy tools at yard sales – and borrow / share with friends.

Depending on the size of your garden, you will need various tools (rakes, shovels, tillers, etc.)  You may need these tools once or twice a week – or once or twice a year.  Shop discount-bins, yard sales – and borrow / share when you can.

Use raised-beds and square-foot gardening.

I am a big fan of raised-bed gardens – and this year I’ll be using the techniques from the book Square Foot Gardening to create my own square-foot garden.  Basically, square-foot gardening allows for maximum production from a smaller space.  I built my own raised-beds out of scrap lumber.

Make and use your own compost.

I built a compost bin out of some old pallets.  The pallets were free and the compost that I made was rich and filled with good stuff for our soil.

Conserve water.

I use drip irrigation, small sprinklers, and rain water collected in my homemade rain barrel.

Start – or even grow – your plants indoors.

This is something that I will be doing this year.  Here’s a great video – with tips for growing plants indoors.  It takes a few minutes to watch, but the information is easy-to-understand and very practical.

Plant what you like to eat.

Here in the South, tomatoes are extremely easy to grow.  I don’t like tomatoes, so I don’t plant tomatoes.  Spend your time and resources growing the things that you know your family will eat.  Should I need a tomato or two for a sauce or a soup, I can trade / swap / share with others in our neighborhood.

Be prepared to store vegetables.

This is extremely important.  At harvest time – you will have more than you can eat.  We freeze a lot of vegetables – and we are thinking about canning some for next year.  Here’s a video explaining the process – complete with awesome accent!

Save your seeds.

I am relatively new to gardening, but the sites I have visited and the books I have read always suggest saving seeds from the healthiest vegetables that you harvest.  This sets you up for the next planting season.  When I do not have seeds from a previous growing season, I will purchase them from our local hardware store, online, or even on eBay.

Talk to experienced gardeners.

This may be the most important tip.  Find a neighbor or friend who loves to grow things – and strike up a conversation.  Most folks who love gardening also love to talk about gardening.  Learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

Planting a garden can be fun – and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you have tips or techniques to share, please do so in the comments section.  Be blessed.

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Travel With A Plan

I love the beach.

When I retire, I want to live where 50 degrees is considered “cold weather” – and I can rock flip-flops 300 days a year.

As it stands right now, a couple of trips to the beach each summer will have to do, seeing as how my wife and I have jobs, three kids, a mortgage, and are both years from retirement.

So, when we do get a chance to go the beach – we want our trips to be memorable, relaxing, and awesome.

I was doing some research on travel and came across a great article from Trent over at The Simple Dollar.  He has some excellent thoughts about vacation planning.  He writes about the “peak-end rule” – a concept that I had never really considered  – but one that makes a lot of sense.

The idea behind the “peak-end” rule is that when you think back to a past event, you generally have the strongest recollections and feelings about two elements of that event: the “peak” and the “end.”

I won’t spoil the article with much more commentary, but it’s a great read – and it really got me to thinking.  Instead of spending a lot of money on a lot of vacation-type-events, none of which are really all that memorable, I’m going to do a better job of creating a few, very memorable, vacation-moments.  Man, summer needs to get here, fast!

 

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Credit Cards On Pause

When my wife and I decided to get out of debt, we did three things.

First, we created a simple to use zero-based budget.

Second, we established an emergency fund.

Third, we stopped using our credit cards.

Essentially, we put them on pause.

We didn’t cancel them and we didn’t cut them up.  Instead, we simply stopped using them.

Here are the details:

Why did we stop using our credit cards?

We were spending more than we made, month after month, and we were using credit cards to finance our bad spending habits.

Easy-credit made it easy to overspend – and we did.

Getting out of debt became a priority.  Putting away the credit cards – and the ease-of-use that they provided – helped us to reign in our spending.

What did we do with our credit cards?

We didn’t really “do” anything with them.  We just stopped using them.

If memory serves, we did cancel one or two store-branded cards – but that may have happened long before I started No Credit Needed.

We put most of the cards in our home safe and we each kept one, major card in our respective wallets, for emergencies.

We also transferred a balance from one card to another, to take advantage of a zero percent interest balance transfer deal.

That’s it.  We didn’t freeze them or cancel them or chop them up with a blender.  We made a decision not to use them – and we didn’t use them.

How did we live without credit cards?

We used (and use) the envelope system to manage our cash.

We used a debit card, associated with a secondary checking account, for online purchases.

We used online banking to pay our bills – along with the occasional paper check.

What about now?

Now that we have our spending under control and have learned many valuable lessons about responsible management of our finances, we will, occasionally, use a credit card.  We do so mainly for gasoline or groceries – and only for budgeted amounts.  We pay off balances each month and avoid interest like the plague.  Frankly, we find very little need for the cards.

What have we learned?

Getting out of debt can be a challenge.  By putting our credit cards on pause – we gave ourselves a built-in spending limit.  When the money ran out, the money ran out.  This radically changed our habits – and eventually changed our lives.

At one point, we needed credit cards (or thought we did).  Now, we don’t.  And that’s a big difference.

We are in control – not our credit cards, not our spending habits, and not our debt.

In my old age, I’m a little less dogmatic than I used to be.  In the beginning, I saw credit cards themselves as evil.  Now, I see that what I really needed was a good dose of self-control.  For me, that meant taking a radical step – of putting the cards on pause – so that I could really focus on debt reduction.  This was a great move for me and for my family, one that I would repeat a thousand times out of a thousand.  Be blessed.

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