Monday, January 30, 2012

Becoming Debt Free...NO MORE CREDIT CARDS!!!




I was hoping to wrap up this series in 2011, but that just didn't happen!  However, I am able to wrap it up now!  If you hung in there and read all the posts in this series you understand just how long it's taken us to get to this point.

I'm happy to announce that as of this week we are paying off all of our debt except the mortgage!!! WooHoooo!!!  That means anything on credit will be paid in full!!!  I would love to throw out numerical figures for all of you too see, but after speaking with my husband he really didn't want the entire world knowing all of our business.  He's okay with me sharing our story, just not every aspect of it.  ;)

So, that being said....It was around this time last year when I got a message from a friend of mine.  We had both adopted children internationally a few years prior and she was informing me of a change the IRS made to the Adoption Tax Credit.  Here's a portion of what she wrote:
First of all, have you heard that it's refundable for the first time this year? Read this article and start planning your trip to Disneyworld! 

The "article" she referred to is found right HERE.

As you can all imagine, I was beyond thrilled once I understood what this meant for our family.  And the fact that this was retroactive back to 2005 meant that our adoption of Emalee was included in this change!

For the first time since we've been married I decided to have a CPA do our taxes.  We had to amend 2 prior years and then file for 2010 as well.  We got them mailed in April of last year and couldn't wait to get our return!

We didn't hear anything from the IRS until August when we got a letter stating that they were requesting more information about our adoption and we needed to send them "proof" of our adoption (which we did in April).  So, I made copies of everything (again) and sent it in.

We waited, and waited and waited some more....I grew impatient.  Very, very impatient!!!  I continued to get letters from the IRS.  In fact, I got a letter EVERY MONTH of 2011 that either said they were still working on our case, or that they needed more "proof" of Emalee's adoption.  I sent "proof" of Emalee's adoption to the IRS FOUR times!

This entire process has been a mess from the beginning.  The IRS was NOT ready for how many people would take them up on this new Adoption Tax Refund.  They were not prepared, didn't have enough staff to review the cases and on top of that had to make sure that the people who applied weren't committing tax fraud (which is on reason we had to send so much proof).

After a few months went by I applied for a Tax Advocate in November.  I heard from my Tax Advocate in December and she assured me that they were working on our case and that I would hear from her again in January.  Hmmm...I wasn't sure if I believed her at that point.
In fact, by the end of 2011 I figured that if we were going to get the return it would come, and if not...well, we'd just have to swallow that!

Last week, my Tax Advocate called to in form us that our case was finally approved!  She told us the amount of the refund and the mail out date.  I am so very happy to have this all over with!

Now, to the fun part of this story....

This was something Brian and I never planned on.  We knew back in 2007 when we adopted Emalee that there was an Adoption Tax Credit.  However, we didn't qualify for it due to the income guidelines.  We knew that the Lord wanted us to adopt Emalee, so not getting a tax credit wasn't going to stop us from adopting her.  You might recall in a previous post  that I shared a few ways that God was providing financially for this adoption.  He assured us that if we were to obey Him that He would provide.  It seriously was a  HUGE leap of faith on our part, because we knew that we didn't have the finances to see this adoption through.  But, God saw the bigger picture! (I think we forget that sometimes!)  ;)

Half of the amount we needed to adopt Emalee was provided by our church, family, friends and a couple of adoption grants.  The other half was on us!  We borrowed the money (something I still wouldn't recommend!) and just planned on paying it over the course of the next several years.  That was all fine and dandy until my health went South on me!  We started accumulating medical bills and found ourselves in a huge financial mess!

With a lot of hard work by cutting costs and saving every little bit we could,  we were able to pay off half of what we owed last year. When we saw how much we would be getting back on the Adoption Tax Refund we knew there was a great possibility of paying off all of our credit debt in full with it...and that's exactly what we've been able to do!

It feels so good to be out of bondage to the credit companies.  I can't tell you how much pressure is off our shoulders.   I can even physically see the change in my husband.  It makes me feel all the more happy about this situation just to know that he doesn't have to worry so much about providing.  By the way...he's an awesome provider for our family.  I couldn't have married a harder working man and am so grateful that the Lord put us together!  (Just an extra .02 cents from me!)

I don't want to wrap up this post without acknowledging that we believe this was definitely an act of God.  We don't know why he chose to bless us in this way.  All we can do is thank Him and do our best to never get in a situation like this again.  We've vowed to NEVER put medical bills on our credit cards again!  We will NOT be using our credit cards again either!  We are thrilled to finally be in a position where we can give more and save more.  We thank the Lord for providing for us in a way that we would have never imagined!  We're excited to see what the future holds!



If you haven't had a chance to read the many posts that I've written in this series you can find them all right HERE.



Monday, January 16, 2012

One Foot In Front of the Other

Photo Credit



I did it!  I finally did it!  I know that for some of you what I'm about to announce that I accomplished this morning isn't on a grand scheme, but it is for me....

I finally took a walk this morning!!!  It was glorious!!!  I got up, took Emalee to preschool, smelled the fresh air (we're having unseasonably warm weather in the Ozarks) and decided that today would be the day.  The day to get out of my horrible, awful morning routine and get outside and walk.

You see, it's really not my goal in life to sit and do nothing.  Okay, that might be a bit exaggerated,  I do things, but I certainly don't do everything that I used to do.  A few years ago I was walking every day.  However, I have this ugly disease that sucks bits and pieces of my every day pleasures away from me.  The ability to walk and exercise has been one of those things that it's taken.

This morning I made a decision to take that part of me back!  So, I put on my comfy clothes, laced up my tennis shoes, went outside and put one foot in front of the other.  It wasn't a very long walk...I didn't come close to a 5K, but it sure was nice to smell the fresh air and do some talking with my Savior.

One of my goals for this year is to get more exercise in.  This morning was a great day to start that goal!

What are some goals you have this year?  How are you doing at accomplishing those so far?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: The Money Saving Mom's Budget



In November, of 2011 I was delighted to find out that I was one of 200 bloggers chosen to receive a preview edition of The Money Saving Mom's Budget, written by one of my favorite bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom.  I have scoured the pages of this book over the last several weeks and am delighted to say that this book does not disappoint.

I've been a fan of Crystal's blog for awhile now and love her tender, humble spirit.  Yet, she has a determination with a bit a spunk!  Her personality shines in her book!

The first few chapters are my favorite part of the book (although the entire book is a wonderful read).  She writes of the importance of setting goals, but what I like most is how she teaches us step by step how to get there.  The first chapter is appropriately titled "If you don't know where you're going, any train will get you there."  The second chapter is all about clutter and chaos.  She shows us the importance of streamlining these and eliminating them from our lives.  She teaches about time management and organization and how these two things have an impact on our budget.

Did I say budget?  Oh yes, she went in depth on the importance of having a budget.   This is something that I'm personally passionate about as my husband and I struggled with this for many years.  I love this paragraph in chapter 3:

The point is to make a budget that works for you and then to work the budget.  The best of intentions won't get you anywhere unless you also have follow-through.  You can have the most beautifully laid out budget in the world, but if you don't use it, nothing will change. 

There are a lot of worksheets provided in the back of the book for budgeting, goal setting, time management and a grocery price book.  There are also several helpful websites listed throughout the book and helpful advice on having a successful garage sale, how to plan a vacation on a budget, how to save money on contacts, how to dress your children for free...and many more ideas!

The best part about this book....Crystal and her husband Jesse are graciously offing every single penny made on this book to support  Compassion International- an organization that helps to feed and clothe needy children around the world.


I wanted to pause here and just give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Crystal for writing this book.  I love that it's written in a format where everyday, ordinary people can pick it up and understand it.  I love her passion for helping people get on the right track toward not only financial freedom, but also personal contentment no matter what their income.  I also love that she has a passion to reach out beyond her blog readers to meet the physical needs of children around the world.  Thank you, Crystal, for going out of your comfort zone on this project!  


Guess what I'm most excited about?  I get to give one of you a FREE copy of Crystal's book!  The first one of you that post on my facebook wall will be the lucky winner!  I'll contact you after you post!  Good luck!  Update:  This giveaway is now expired!


Remember, you can always purchase a copy of Crystal's book right HERE.  It was released yesterday nationwide.  Watch Crystal's excitement about its release right HERE.



 I was not paid to write this review other than receiving a free copy of the book. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Goals

I've been thinking about some of the goals I have for 2012.  I don't really make "resolutions" as I feel that I just set myself up for failure if I don't complete one of those tasks.  Here are just a few of my 2012 goals....I'll add to this list later as I come up with more!

Books to Read:


Nobody has encouraged me to read books more than Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom.  Although I don't know her personally, I love reading her blog as it's uplifting and encouraging to me.  Over the last few years of reading MSM I've been intrigued as I've watched Crystal devour several books in a year.  I never thought I had much time to read, but this year I'm making a plan and sticking to it.  I'm starting slow with a goal of one book per month.  I'm also reading the Bible in a year and will be reading several books aloud to my daughter as well along with whatever Bible study I will be in.
The following are the 12 books I've picked to read this year.

1.  Radical
2.  The Money Saving Mom's Budget (with a book review on this blog coming soon!)
3.  Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day
4.  Sweet Deception
5.  I Kissed Dating Goodbye
6.  Do Hard Things
7.  Kisses From Katie
8.  Crazy Love
9.  What He Must Be If He Wants To Marry My Daughter
10.  A Mother's Heart
11.  Parenting With Love & Logic
12.  Have A New You By Friday


Health/Fitness:


1.  Exercise:  This is one goal I can honestly say that I'm not thrilled about.  I do NOT like to exercise...and with my HES it's even harder for me to accomplish such a daunting task.  There are days that I can barely get out of bed in the morning, days that I'm not breathing well and days that my pulse is wacky.  However, I'm hoping that if I add just a touch of exercise to my lifestyle, maybe...just maybe I'll be able to build up to being more consistent in this area.....and maybe some of my HES symptoms will improve.  Only time will tell!  So, about a month ago a neighbor of mine was getting rid of her treadmill and called asking if I wanted it.  I almost said, no, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I needed to try.  So I'll gradually start walking and and see what happens!
2.  Drink more water and cut out more soda!
3.  Make and eat more whole foods for my family and work on cutting out all the "extra's" that we find in processed foods.  This will be a hard one as my family usually resists this type of change, but I think if I take it slowly they'll adjust.


Tackle the Clutter!


I'll continue to tackle the clutter in my home and get more organized.  This seems to be an on-going battle of mine and although my home isn't a disastrous mess it has its quirks and crannies that I need to overcome.  This year I'm finding Get Organized Wizard  to be helpful to read through.

1.  Clean out the storage room.  Collect things that need to go on Craigslist and get them listed and sold!
2.  I would love to have an area in my home designated for a craft work space.  From time to time I like to make things and it irritates me to no end that I have to drag everything out and then put it all back up. I'm hoping that once the storage room is clean I can make myself a craft corner in there!  :)
3.  Finish painting the basement.
4.   Implement this rule:  If something new enters the house, something old must leave the house!  This works well with almost anything, but especially toys and clothing.
5.  Go through all books I own that I have already read and take them to the book store to trade in for more books or cash.
6.  Go through the file cabinet (I'm really dreading this one) and burn all papers that don't matter anymore.  Set up new files for papers that do matter.
7.  Set up a daily time management system.


Financial:

We're hoping to become debt free in the next few months (other than the mortgage).  It's taken longer than expected due to unforeseen circumstances.  Once we accomplish that task we'll need to sit down and work on our other financial goals...
Just in case you're wondering we're using the Financial Peace University plan.


Spiritual:


1.  Continue being involved in my local church,  continue participating in my monthly mentoring group and monthly fellowship group.
2.  Seek out new guests that attend our church and invite them over for dinner and games.
3.  Write encouraging notes/cards to the sick and home bound in our church.
4.  Continue tithing 10% of our income to our local church.
5.  Once out of debt give above our tithe to other ministries that we support.
6.  Once Emalee's schooling schedule allows get back into my weekly Bible study group.
7.  Attend True Woman 2012!  (I'm so excited about this since TW 2010 was so much fun!)


Marriage:

1.  Go on at least one date per month.
2.  Pray for my husband daily.
3.  Save money to go on a marriage retreat weekend.


Children/Family:


1.  Continue to encourage both boys to live a life of purity.  Come along side them in this goal by reading and discussing a few books together (numbers 5, 6 and 9 in my book list above).
2.  Help boys looks for way to make extra income over the next few months.  Ex. mowing yards, yard work for neighbors, part-time job, etc.
3.  Work on teaching boys how to manage their finances.
4.  Continue working on Emalee's speech goals
5.  Begin working on Emalee's adoption "Life Book"
6.  Attend and volunteer in Korea Camp this summer
7.  Plan summer vacation
8.  Read at least 15 minutes per day out loud to Emalee
9.  Get Emalee prepped for Kindergarten in the Fall!  Yikes!