What Using a Credit Card only for Three Months Taught Me

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was going to try using only our credit card for expenses to see how that would work for us.  We have a rewards credit card where we get cash back on certain purchases (4% on gas, 3% on movies, 2% on restaurants and groceries, and up to 1% on everything else) so when we use it, we do reap rewards.  We always pay this card balance off every month because it has a high interest rate- probably to make up for the rewards.  In October, November, and December I used the credit card for all our every day purchases- gas, groceries, cable bill, household items, Amazon, etc. We actually ended up hitting the $100 threshold to receive a rebate check and in December when we received our statement it was attached- $127.32.  Obviously free money is nice and it’s not like I had to do anything extra to earn it.

However, I don’t know if I like using the credit card only.  Here’s why:

  • I like using our debit card for every day purchases because the money immediately comes out of our checking account.  I actually keep a check register, so it’s very easy for me to know exactly how much money we have at any point.  When I use the credit card, the money gets charged and the balance keeps going up and up until I make a payment.  I did make several payments throughout the month, so it wasn’t like it was a huge payment all a once and hurt a little less than if I had made the payment when the billing cycle cut.  It still hurt to make payments in the hundreds of dollars versus the smaller charges that usually go on our debit card.
  • I feel like we spent a lot more money when we used the credit card. Not having to write the transactions down made it almost like free money and it was easier to just swipe the card without having to think twice about it.  I can see how so many people get into the credit card trap and end up with high balances that take awhile to pay off.
  • I used to be able to make payments of whatever dollar amount I wanted to at any time to our credit card.  They changed it so that you can’t make a payment greater than what you owe, which I completely understand why, but it was so easy when I would charge gas or groceries and could come home and immediately transfer that amount to the credit card so I didn’t have to worry about doing it later.  I don’t like owing money.

I did like that it was easier to reconcile our checking account when we didn’t have multiple purchases to account for.  That part of it was great!  Going forward, I’m not sure what I  want to do. Part of me feels like it’s much better to just use the debit card and write the purchases down. I feel like when we use the debit card, we are much more intentional about how we spend our money.  I honestly can’t say that we made tons of extravagant purchases during the few months we used the credit card, but I feel like we did spend more than I would like.

Do you use credit cards and if so, what is your system?





2017 Goals Recap

For many years now, I’ve set financial goals at the beginning of every year.  Here are 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015. Last year, we set goals for 2017 and today I’m going to see just how well we did.  2017 was extremely hard as Mr. Money lost his job at the end of July.  I think we will spend a lot of 2018 playing catch up, but I’m hopeful this year will be better than the last.  Here are the goals we set last year:

-Pay $8,000 down on the principal of our home.  Fail. We paid off over $6,000 towards principal of our mortgage.  I’m not too upset about this, as I’m not sure what our future goals are going to be as far as the mortgage goes.  Part of me would rather not try to put every extra cent we have towards the mortgage when it’s at 3.75% and put it, say in our Roth IRAs instead. I feel like that may be a better investment for our future, as that money will have time to grow and I’m assuming a better rate of return than 3.75% on that money.  Of course, I would LOVE to be mortgage free, but we need to assess our goals for 2018 and see what we feel will be best suited for our family.

-Save money for college education/the future for kid(s).  Success.  We did save some money for college education/future expenses, but it wasn’t that much.  Every time our daughter receives money for birthdays, Christmas, etc we deposit it in her savings account.  We hardly every buy toys at our house, and believe me- there is no lack of toys here!  We are blessed with caring family that likes to buy toys.  We err on the side of minimalism, and strive to keep a healthy balance of what comes in and what goes out of our house.

-Save $500 a month for retirement.  Fail. We were doing very well with retirement savings at the beginning of the year but Mr. Money ended up taking a new job and consequently was laid off from that job a few months later, so we didn’t save as much for retirement as we had hoped for.  This year I’m going to try to increase my work from home earnings, so I’m optimistic we will be able to save more money this year.

-Don’t eat out unless it’s planned and budgeted for.  Success/Fail?  This is probably the biggest area of our budget that we struggle with, and we always have.  Being a one income frugal family, we don’t buy extravagant things- expensive new clothes, toys, video games, anything of the sort, and eating out is a huge treat for us.  We enjoy eating out because it gets us out of the house, we don’t have to cook or clean up, and it’s a form of family bonding.  I HATE spending $25 on one meal for us to eat out, but we enjoy it immensely.


-Become/stay debt free.  Success. We ended up being very lucky to finish the year debt free.  It wasn’t easy, but somehow we made it work!  We try our hardest to stick to our frugal, minimalist ways and being debt free is the biggest reward for that. Debt stresses me out and I hate it!  I hope we never go into debt again and I dream of the day we are finished paying off our mortgage.

Go on a nice vacation somewhere.  Fail. Ha.  We did go visit my family a few times, but that only cost us gas money to get there and then we stayed with my parents so we didn’t spend any extra money on lodging.  I really wanted us to visit Mr. Money’s family in Colorado but that didn’t happen.  Our vehicles are older and we didn’t want to risk driving them 1500 plus miles across country and have something happen to them.

Overall, I’m satisfied with our progress towards our 2017 goals.  After Mr. Money lost his job, we went into survival mode and life was what it was. I’m hoping and praying that we end 2018 in a much better position than we ended 2017.  I think that’s a real possibility!  Mr. Money and I need to sit down and figure out what we want our 2018 goals to be and go from there.

How was your 2017?



Being a Stay at Home Mom When You “Shouldn’t”

Many times over the past almost six years that I’ve been a stay at home mom, I’ve been riddled with guilt over our decision. Thoughts float around in my head: “Should I go back to work?”, “Will we be able to save enough for retirement without me financially contributing at this moment?”, “I really wish we could afford more flexibility in our budget so we could (go on vacation, join the Y, send our daughter to a cottage homeschool program, etc)”.  The guilt ate me alive at times!  It was especially worse right after my husband lost his job.  Not only was I feeling very depressed about him not having a job, I was feeling massive amounts of angst because I wasn’t working and bringing in a full time income.

I finally had to sit down and decide what our plan was going to be.  Often times when anxious thoughts take over, I have to focus on the positives to make myself realize what the bigger picture is.  We have a plan, and hopefully next year this time things will be so much better that we will forget about the few months when Mr. Money was unemployed.  I’m sure there will still be sacrifices, but if that means that I get to spend as much time with my family as I can then it’s worth it!  When there’s a will, there’s (most likely) a way.  It may not easy, but it is worth it!

Here are some of the ways we make it work:

1. Keep Expenses Low

We purchased a modest sized house over ten years ago and have made it work for our growing family. We’ve rearranged rooms and decluttered many times (constantly!) to make our spaces work for us. The cars we are still driving are same vehicles we’ve had for years and we take good care of them so they will last. Buying things we can’t afford just isn’t an option at this point in our lives and we’re okay with that.  We don’t make trips to the store just for fun and we try to combine trips to save money, time, and gas.  Shopping is not a hobby in our household.

2. Budget

Our budget is bare bones right now, but we are doing our best to stick to it. By budgeting, I feel as if I have more control over our finances since every dollar has a plan for it.  When the money is gone in one category, it’s gone.  I personally think I have the hardest time with the food category- I feel like we need what we need and there’s no way around it. However, we do have a large pantry and freezer that I can use to make it work so I really crack down on that.  We meal plan and ensure meat is thawed in time for dinner and that really helps.  I think food is a budget buster for many families!

3. Side Hustles

Figuring out a side hustle, or “Dave job” for the Dave Ramsey followers, is an excellent way to bring in extra cash each month.  I offer babysitting services, do some freelance writing, and take care of the neighbor’s dogs to help bring in extra income. Mr. Money has been known to do yard work and handyman tasks to help pad our bank account.  I believe there is something that everyone is good at that they can use to make money.

4. Cheap or Free Activities

Living in an area with excellent parks definitely has its advantages! We love to pack picnic lunches and visit different play grounds with friends or just hit up one of the local parks and go hiking. A few weeks ago, the aquarium closest to us had a homeschool field trip day and we all went for the cost of one normal admission! It was a great experience, and packing food meant we didn’t pay for anything else. In the month of October, we also scouted out all the local trunk or treats and free Halloween events happening in our city. We had tons of fun and only spent money on gas to get us to those places!

5. No Shame

This is probably the hardest part of being a stay at home mom for me, but I think it’s so important. You have to have no shame with some things. Wearing used clothing and shopping at thrift stores has become the norm for us. We receive hand-me-downs with pleasure and are very thankful for having new pieces of a wardrobe for no money! Sometimes we have to tell friends or family we just can’t afford to do activities with them, and that’s okay. No shame in that!

There are still days when I question whether or not I’m doing the right thing, but I firmly believe that every parent goes through that at times!  Raising a family is hard work, there’s no doubt about it!

What are some ways you make your financial situation work? 

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