How I Ditched Debt: Penny Pinchin’ Mom

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

In this series, NerdWallet interviews people who have triumphed over debt using a combination of commitment, budgeting and smart financial choices. Their stories may even inspire you to pay off your debt.

A year before Tracie Fobes was married, she declared bankruptcy. It eliminated her debt, but by the time she and her husband had their first child, they’d accumulated $37,000 more debt due primarily to a home equity loan and two auto loans. Fobes said that until they began to have open conversations about money, she hadn’t realized why they had gotten into debt in the first place.

How I Ditched Debt: Penny Pinchin' Mom

Tracie Fobes blogs about her family’s debt repayment journey as the Penny Pinchin’ Mom.

The Missouri couple started their repayment journey in November 2007, and today, they’re free of all consumer debt. Tracie Fobes is a stay-at-home mom and now blogs about family life, money management, saving and finding deals at The Penny Pinchin’ Mom. Here’s their story.

How did you end up in debt?

Tracie Fobes: When our oldest was born, I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom. This was something that was important to both my husband and I, so we knew it would make our financial situation tight, but it was well worth it. We purchased a brand new minivan right after she was born. At the time, I had another vehicle and owed much more than it was worth. That meant we had to roll that amount into the financing on our van. Our payment had to go up as result. My husband had a pickup as well. While it was a bit older, we still had to take out a loan to make the purchase, which contributed to our debt as well.

We also decided that it would be “smart” to pay for things we needed around the house by taking out a home equity loan rather than using credit cards. The interest rate was lower, but it was still a very stupid mistake on our part. We also had one small credit card that did not have much of a balance on it. We really never used cards too often, so we did not have to worry about that.

What triggered your decision to start getting out of debt?

I remember going to dinner with some friends one evening. While money was tight, my husband told me that I just needed to have an evening away from the kids. At the end of the meal, while most of us were using plastic to pay for dinner, my friend pulled out an envelope with cash. I asked her what the cash was for and she started to explain what they were doing and how they were digging themselves out from under their debt. In the back of my mind, I started thinking that if they could do this, why couldn’t we?

When I got home from dinner, I told my husband what they were doing. We knew that they made no more than we did. We began our research and within a week, we had started working on a budget and a debt plan. The rest, as they say, is history.

What steps did you take to reduce your debt?

We were a team. We knew we had to work together and be on the same page during this entire process, or it would not work. Our budget was 100% a joint effort. When it came to the debts to pay first, we talked it through and agreed as a team the path to take.

We both looked at what we could do to have money to pay off our debts. My husband decided to sell things he no longer needed. I took the approach of trying to reduce our budget, namely groceries. I began researching and learning ways to really save on the food we needed. In doing so, I began to share my findings with others. That led me to start my website, Penny Pinchin’ Mom, which also allowed me to make additional money that we were able to throw at our debt.

How has your life changed for the better since you got out of debt?

I wish that I could put the feeling into words, but I can’t. It is just something you have to experience. It is like happiness, relief, joy, calm and peace, all rolled into one.

We now have less stress when it comes to money. When the cost of groceries or fuel goes up, it doesn’t make us worry. Sure, we hate it as much as the next person, but it doesn’t really affect us negatively. We don’t worry how we will come up with more money to cover these increased expenses.

In addition, we can do the things we want. We took our three children on their dream vacation last summer. We spent more than a week in Florida doing all of the “kid” things such as Disney, the beach and Universal Studios. The best thing about this trip was that it was paid for in cash.  100% of it. No bills following us home after our trip. Our hard work and savings afforded us this amazing opportunity to do something amazing for our kids.

We also have less stress about job loss. There is money in the bank to cover us should that happen. When you remove financial stress from your life, you get to live the life you want. There is no better feeling.

Make your own ‘get rid of debt’ plan

If you have debt you’d like to eliminate, you’re going to need a plan of attack:

  • Start by stopping: Avoid adding to your existing debt or opening new accounts.
  • Next, assess what you owe and rank your debts from highest interest to low-interest or “good” debts, such as a mortgage payment.
  • Then, determine where you can cut spending and how much you’ll devote to paying off each debt. If you need some psychological motivation, try paying off your smallest debts first with the debt snowball method. Or you might prefer the debt avalanche method, in which you pay off your highest-interest debts first. This method is likely to save you the most money on interest and help you pay off your total debt faster.
  • Finally, make a commitment to stick to your plan.

As part of your larger payoff plan, consider consolidating your debts into one new debt with a lower interest rate. This can lower your monthly payments and even help you pay off your debt sooner. You can consolidate with a 0% balance-transfer credit card or a personal loan. Try using a personal loans calculator to learn about possible interest rates and monthly payments, according to your credit score.

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.

How to hack your Keurig 2.0

Published: Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 1:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 @ 6:00 AM

Trending on Facebook

More popular and trending stories

The cost of what you pay for a cup of fancy coffee at home is going up -- not down -- thanks to a tricky move by the dominant home coffee brewing company.

How your 2.0 Keurig is ripping you off

It recently came to my attention that the Keurig people are making a 2.0 version of their machine with DRM (digital rights management).

I know this sounds crazy, but Keurig is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- a controversial law designed to protect the entertainment industry -- to force you to only use proprietary K coffee pods in their new machine!

My executive producer Christa likes to make individual off-brand K cups at home using her Keurig machine. That drives her cost down to around 6 cents a cup.

But as more and more people do what Christa does, Keurig has watched their profits go down. That's because their business model is based on them making money from all the different coffee manufacturers who pay them royalties to have their coffee in K cups.

More popular and trending stories

So Keurig came out with the 2.0 machine that has a computer chip in it to sense anytime somebody is trying to save money making coffee...and it will not let them make their coffee!

Even if you buy an off-brand refillable coffee pod, if it doesn't have the Keurig logo on it, it can sense that too.

I have never had a cup of coffee in my life and I'm upset for any coffee drinker over this DRM coffee. Clarkrage!

Watch this video for the hack:

http://youtu.be/BKZvRuS1xLo

If you don't want to go through all that work, you're better served right now with the older 1.0 versions of the Keurig machines to avoid this DRM ploy. They're available for $50 to $75. Buy one of the older ones if you are price sensitive.

Target recalls more than half-million water-absorbing Easter toys

Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017 @ 6:20 PM

(cpsc.gov)

Target is recalling 560,000 Easter toys after discovering that, if ingested, they can expand inside a child’s body and cause life-threatening health issues.

>> Read more trending news

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a notice Wednesday for water-absorbent Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs, along with Easter Grow Toy and Hatch Your Own Dino, sold at Target stores nationwide from February through March for about a dollar each.

According to the CPSC recall notice, if the toy is ingested “it can expand inside a child’s body and cause intestinal obstructions, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration and could be life-threatening, requiring surgery for the toy to be removed.”

Parents should also be aware that the toy may not show up on an X-ray while visiting a medical professional for help, according to the CPSC recall notice.

The recall notice says no incidents or injuries have been reported.

Consumers must return the purchased items to Target immediately for a full refund. One can also call Target’s customer service number at 800-440-0680 for further assistance.

6 splurges that will save you more in the long run

Published: Monday, April 03, 2017 @ 3:08 PM

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you will often save money in the long run by spending more in the here and now. This is because cheaply manufactured goods need frequent replacement, whereas a higher quality item can last you for years — sometimes even decades!

>> Southern Made: Worthy splurges for kitchen and home

Buy from a company with a lifetime warranty, and you’ll have the possibility of purchasing something that lasts as long as you do!

Of course, not all purchases have the potential to last forever. Take shoes as an example. I’m a labor and delivery nurse, and as such, I do NOT scrimp on my footwear. I’m on my feet 12-1/2 hours per shift, and would quickly regret buying inferior shoes.

Instead I splurge on $125 Dansko clogs, which give me the support needed to tend to my patients and continue in my career. However, my shoes last at least seven to eight years. This is because they’re manufactured with quality in mind and are almost infinitely repairable. I save the cost of buying multiple shoes by spending more on my initial purchase.

>> It’s OK to Spend Money on Yourself — Really

Read the full story at Clark.com.

Related

Five things to know: Are you at risk for a cyber attack?

Published: Sunday, March 26, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

If you’re online, you’re at risk, experts say.

“The fact of the matter is we as a society do more and more and more stuff online — that’s individuals, that’s governments, that’s businesses — and when you do that … what we call the threat surface has grown exponentially,” said David Salisbury, a University of Dayton professor of information systems.

RELATED: The war you can’t see: U.S. cyber warriors protect us from daily attacks

Although cyberwarfare gets a lot of attention, said Jeff A. Hughes, president of Tenet3 in Riverside, “there’s a lot of everyday threats I think people should be equally as focused on.”

Experts have these tips on the ways you personally may be at risk online and on the job.

SPECIAL REPORT: Cyber warriors can stop cars, turn off water, unlock jail cells

Here are five ways you can protect yourself:

  • Spear phishing or phishing: Clicking on an email attachment may unleash malware that infects your computer. Experts say be wary of what you click on if you don’t know its origin or the sender.
  • Ransomware: A hacker demands money to remove malware from your computer,which may have neen infilitrated by clicking on a phishing email. The malware would restrict or shutdown your ability to use the system. “There is one way to avoid being wiped out by ransomware and that is to back everything up you don’t want to lose … and then physically disconnect it from your computer,” Salisbury said.
  • Credit card skimming: A noted concern at gas station fuel pumps, running your credit card through a skimming device could let a thief walk off with credit card data. “These are vulnerable to quick hacks,” Hughes said.
  • Social media: The information you share online could be crafted by criminals to develop a specific spear phishing intrusion to target you, Hughes said. Experts recommend setting privacy settings to keep out those you don’t want snooping in your social media accounts
  • Don’t answer requests for personal information online.

MORE CYBER NEWS

Need a job? U.S. military looking for cyber warriors