Total Money Makeover Update: June 2012

Life has been a tad chaotic since I last posted about our Total Money Makeover progress.

After our fire, we lived in a Comfort Inn for 6 weeks. We ate out every night–which is not in our normal budget–and were begrudgingly given an advance of $500 (after we’d spent about $1000) by an insurance lady who said they didn’t usually give advances for food. (Which begs the question, What must one need in order to get an advance?)

Then, we moved to a condo and were given a rather random and unhelpful assortment of our stuff to live with. Salad spinner – yes. Bed sheets – no. We also were blessed with the companionship of a family of adorable, but filthy and disgusting brown mice who were much too smart to crawl into our humane mousetrap, even when it was full of cheese and peanut butter. About a week before we moved out, our property manager finally returned our call about taking care of the mice, but we decided to live with the mice and let maintenance deal with mouse-killing after we were gone.

About a week and a half after we moved back into our newly remodeled home, I took one of my students to the hospital and spent most of my evenings for the next three weeks with her. When she was discharged, she moved in with us and became our unofficial foster daughter for a few weeks. Then, she decided to get married.

During all of this, Dexter spent about two months out of work, though God blessed him with a few fantastic freelance jobs. He now has a nice, predictable job at a bank and I get to see him dressed up, tie and all, every morning. We also took an amazing class called Perspectives which added plenty of homework to our schedule. Dexter, always creative and always entrepreneurial, started a handmade product business which I’ll tell you more about soon.

How has all of this life affected our financial situation?

For the last eight months, we haven’t budgeted well at all. We started using a credit card and paying it off every month, but then using it again because paying it off used up our cash flow. After depleting our emergency fund, our car stopped working, so we opened a new, interest-free credit card for that bill.

For me, this summer is about getting back on track financially. We’re paying off the credit cards, getting back on the cash envelope system, and trying to live simply.

I remembered getting to the 75% mark in our debt repayment process, but I didn’t remember how close we came to 70% last time I calculated our debt. I was happily surprised that after months of paying only minimums, we had still made visible progress. Over the past seven months, we paid off 2.8% of our debt and have 67.9% to go.

We haven’t received the check for what we lost from the insurance company. This is mostly our fault, because we haven’t finished our paperwork. I like to blame this on the people who cleaned our house, because we keep unpacking damaged items mixed in with undamaged items, and having to record them in our paperwork. We have a few pieces of furniture to get repair estimates for, and then we should be done. Once the check comes in, things will look a lot more cheery in the financial department. With the check, we’ll do things like:

  • Save money
  • Replace our bed (We are currently floor-camping, and have been since February 6. It’s surprisingly comfortable, but we’re thankful for the new carpet underneath the sleeping bag.)
  • Replace our couch, window treatments, and set money aside for things we discover we need in the future
  • Fix our air conditioner
  • Look into refinancing our house
  • Finish paying off Debt #3

In my imagination, we’ll take the rest of our thousands of dollars and go on a vacation and buy a new car, but it’s unlikely we’ll be able to do all the things on the list above. A girl can dream.

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Try New Adventures: Kelsey vs. The Bad Men

On the chilly walk to the car on Tuesday, I chatted with a student about a phone call she’d gotten in which someone had asked for her debit card number. She said the same company had sent her a letter and that she’d bring it the next day for me to look at.

She did bring the letter, and it said she owed $800 in addition to her $800 down payment. We called the bank and found out there had been a charge to her account. The very helpful banker told us to contact the company, and if they wouldn’t refund the money, that my student could come in and fill out papers and that the bank’s fraud department would get to work.

My student is not a native English speaker and has only been studying English for a year and a half. She’s come so far, but not far enough that she understood a pushy phone conversation from a sneaky, greedy company. And not far enough to argue with that company to get her money back.

That was my job.

Let me give you some background on this. I HATE talking on the phone. I can stand talking to Dexter and my parents, but even if you’re my friend, I’d much rather e-mail you than talk to you on the phone. I can and do talk on the phone, but only with much trepidation, even when I’m doing something boring like asking what hours a store is open or if I can schedule an oil change. I was praying and praying that God would help me to know what to say and that he would defeat the evil people who were hurting my student (whose story is already so tragic).

Thankfully, knowing you are on the side of righteousness and that your enemy is evil gives a lot of confidence.

I jumped through the first hurdle–20 minutes of being on hold. Then, on speaker phone, I explained who I was and what I wanted for my student. The person I spoke to on the phone checked with his supervisor and said they could give only a partial refund to my student because her five-day window had passed. I calmly explained that the full amount needed to be refunded because the company had not explained what was happening to my student in a way she understood. We did this dance for several more minutes, until I asked to speak to the supervisor he’d consulted earlier.

I don’t think my heart has ever beat so hard. I was so full of anger and anxiety.

The supervisor was incredibly rude. After my short conversation with him, I wanted to pull out the curse words or my student’s sob story. I knew those would probably not get me anywhere, so I kept calm. And prayed and prayed and prayed. He made it a point to require my student to be the one speaking to him. He spat out a battery of questions about why she’d give her debit card number to someone without understanding and wanting the services they were offering. My student, although her English is developing, does not lack any attitude when she gets mad. She knew he was being rude and she said, as he continued to speak over her answers, “Will you listen to me?! Now will you listen to me?!” She rattled on, just as he had, explaining what had happened and why his company was being unfair.

A few minutes later, his rude interrogation stopped and we heard a click. At first, I thought he had hung up and that I’d have to be on hold again for another 20 minutes before starting over. But then I heard our original phone man explaining that they’d be offering us a one-time full refund as a courtesy…

Not sure how anything they do involves courtesy, but I didn’t think it was a good time to start arguing semantics.

Before she left, my student said, “This is a good lesson for me to be careful about my information!”

We’ll be checking to see if the money really does reappear in her account, but I’m praying that it does and that God has taken care of it all for good!

Head over to Alicia’s Homemaking for more (and hopefully less stressful) Try New Adventures Thursday!

UPDATE 4/5/11: The money has officially been returned!