Saturday, February 28, 2009

Herbs, Fruits, Nuts & Vegetables

I live in Southern California, so our growing season is long. As we wrap up winter here, our thoughts on our ranch turn towards spring. We've been on this property for almost three years now and have planted herbs, fruit trees, nut trees, berries, and have a vegetable garden every year.

We will track our costs involved so that we can see what we spend and what we save on. Gardening is a hobby for me and my wife, so this is not a scientific study. We know how expensive fruits, nuts, vegetables, and herbs can be at the market. Plus, homegrown taste so much better!

This year we will continue by starting the vegetable garden by planting what worked last year. The tomatoes and squash did very well. However, the corn, bell peppers, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers faired poorly. I think we will not plant corn, but will try again with all the others. The seeds we purchased last year were very cheap. I think this had a lot to do with our lack of abundance last year. So this year, we have budgeted a little more towards our seed inventory.

As for the herbs, the rosemary, lavender, mint, and parlsey have done well. I would like to add a few more herbs, so I will read up on what we can add in this zone in Southern California.

The trees have done well. Some are new like the avocado we planted last year. This one has survived the few nights of freezing temperatures. The first one we planted didn't. We have several citrus trees, including lemon, orange, and lime. We also have fig, asian pear, olive, and cherry trees around the property. The nut tree is a pistachio that is thriving here.

For the berries, we have a blueberry bush that likes it protected against the house. We would like to add some more berries, so I'll be online looking for them.

Since we live in an area that is full of wineries and vineyards, I had to plant a grape vineyard. I have cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and chardonnay grapes. The vineyard is small, but it's fun growing grapes of different varieties used in wines.

For more good ideas about home gardening, Get Rich Slowly did a post about magazines that discuss self suffiency. I found it very enlightening on what is out there. Happy gardening.

March's Spending Plan

I am going to regularly post information on next month's Spending Plan (budget) for several reasons. First, because it is relatively new for me to make a spending plan. Secondly, I believe when I post a spending plan the day before the new month, it helps me focus on creating this new vital habit and puts my spending plan on the forefront.

So last evening, I finally put my financial information on a great website. I found through other readers' comments on other blogs and I highly recommend it! Its layout and ease of accessing and entering information is fantastic.

As for my spending plan, I use a zero based budget, where every penny has a place to go. As with any spending plan, there will be adjustments throughout the month, as income and outgo changes.

March's Spending Plan has more money for my debt snowball because I paid off my last credit card last week! I will roll over this amount add it to the minimum on the next debt...the IRS! Other than that, all the other expenses are the usual. The best part is seeing the list of creditors I owe getting shorter and shorter!

Remember, do the Spending Plan! This is key to see where your money goes regularly. The financial websites will show patterns and give suggestions on where to save. But you are in control to live within your means and stick to your Spending Plan. This will help you on the road to financial freedom!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Emergency Fund

On the road to financial responsibility, the Emergency Fund, has a vital part in that journey to ensure that we don't rely on credit cards to help us through life's challenges. We'll take a look at the initial EF that you should have while paying off your debt.

The question is how much initial emergency fund do we need? Dave Ramsey states in his Baby Steps, that a $1000 EF should be in place before you start to tackle debt. Recently, on Frugal Dad, this topic was covered as the "Recession Proof Emergency Fund". It is another great idea of what works for you.

I think that your EF should be based on several personal factors. First, how long it will take you to pay off your debts? My debt snowball spending plan will take about another year to complete. So, if I have to stop paying on my debt snowball, at this time this will leave a significant amount of monthly payment to the emergency in addition to the EF in place.

I also believe you have to consider your job security. Of course, some sectors of our society are being hit hard from the current economic situation. However, with the 7-8% unemployment rate, that also means that 90% plus of Americans are working! I currently have great job security because I work in Public Safety and have for the last 22 years.

Your current health should also be evaluated in regards to how much EF you may need. Of course, all of life's emergencies cannot be predicted, but if you are in good health, and have good medical insurance, this also may affect your initial EF.

At this time, I am comfortable to have a $1000 EF in place until my debts are paid off. This may be different for you considering your situation. Of course, after the debt is gone in February of 2010, I will put into place a 3 month EF according the Baby Step #3 of Dave Ramsey's plan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Road to Debt Freedom!

Baby Step #2- The debt snowball from Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" has been my method of reducing the $55,000+ in unsecured debt that has overwhelmed me.

This method, for me, works! I put the lowest balanced debt first and then in increasing order, have been paying them off, one by one.

While paying minimums on all, I put every extra penny into paying off the lowest balance first. Then after the first debt is paid off, I add that payment, to the next lowest balance payment....voila!...the debt snowball.

As I currently stand, I started the debt snowball process in February of 2008. The original balances were as follows:

VISA #1: $325
Nordstrom: $325
Home Depot: $1200
American Express: $2500
VISA #2: $2600
Personal Loan: $4500
Auto Loan: $13,000
Student Loan: 13,450
IRS: $17,350

I am proud to say, that as off this Monday, All of my credit card debt is paid off! Woo Hoo! Zero, Zilch, Nada! No More Credit Card Debt for me!

The debt snowball method works if you are committed to it, focus on your spending habits, and sell everything. With your spending plan, you can "find" money to apply to your debt. You also, can E-bay, Craigslist, and sell stuff to get more money to apply to debt.

I mentioned snowflakes before. Well, what is a snowball made of? Snowflakes, of course. Any small amount of money can be a snowflake that you can apply towards debt. I save change, recycle, work overtime and earn extra income when I can to put towards debt. I even pickup change in the street!

Recently, I debated about an old pick-up truck I had on my ranch. But after watching Dave Ramsey on television, I decided that it had to go too!

However, I still have more debt to pay off. During the last year, I have been able to pay a significant amount towards the larger debts. With regular payments, and putting my tax refund towards IRS debt, I have been able to do the following to the remaining debts:

Current Balances:
IRS: $3900
Personal Loan: $4500
Auto Loan: $6405
Student Loan: $12,900

As you can see, I still have quite a ways to go. But with a significant amount of income free from paying on five credit cards, I am now applying all of those payments along with the current payments to the smallest debt. With this plan, I should be debt free by February 2010!

February 2010 and debt free except the house! I am excited.

So to summarize: $55,250 initial debt.
: $27,705 current balance.
: $27,545 paid.

Half-way there and still Baby Steppin'! Thanks to inspiring blogs like Get Rich Slowly, My Money Memoirs, Money saving Mom, and of course Dave Ramsey!

$55,000 in debt!

When I started my financial turnaround in February of 2008, I personally was over $55,000 in debt, not counting the Mortgage. Some of the debt I had was left over from my divorce of 8 years ago.

But somehow, over time, I rationalized using credit cards, getting a car loan, borrowing money, and paying for college tuition with a student loan.

Before I knew it, I owed the following:

5 Different Credit Cards: $6,950.
Auto Loan: $13,000
IRS: $17,350
Parent Plus Loan: $13,450
Personal Loan: $4500

For a total of $55,250! A huge number that I compiled with stupid spending, dumb borrowing, lack of planning and lack of savings!

By totaling the amount of unsecured debt i carried, I began my journey to financial freedom.

As with Dave Ramsey's plan, I actually started a budget, or as I prefer, a spending plan! I started looking at my spending habits, traced all of my expenses, and gave every dollar a place to ebb and flow!

The next step was to do the most emotional thing I could think of at the time....CUT UP MY CREDIT CARDS! I was so attached to my Nordstrom credit card because I opened that account over twenty years ago! How crazy is that! Being attached to a credit card that cost me 20 something percent in interest to buy expensive clothes! DUH!

So, I brought out the shredder, put all five credit cards on the table and told my new wife that we were on the road to financial freedom. With that, all five credit cards became many plastic shreds!

Next step was my emergency fund, Baby Step #1 from Dave Ramsey. I immediately opened an ING Orange Savings account. ING offered a $25 gift when you opened an online account with them. I had budgeted $200 also to put into savings that first month. After a month of working some overtime and selling some stuff, I was able to get my $1000 EF funded.

Next post, I start Baby Step # 2-The Debt Snowball and the many Snow Flakes!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


We started this financial journey in February of 2008. My wife and I were sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck! All of our income was going out to bills.

We make a good income, but were not making ends meet! It became obvious that our handling of money was out of control. I didn't even know how much money was going where and what we could afford. We thought were living the "American Dream"...but we were in debt up to our ears!

Not to say that all Americans are in serious debt, however, some of the friends, co-workers and family that we share life with, are mostly living beyond their means.

So, we decided to stop the madness, and get a handle on our finances.

First, we searched the internet for financial information. Through Google, I came upon "Get Rich Slowly", a blog about a man and his wife's journey to become financially responsible and debt free. After reading about J.D. and his situation, I could completely relate to what he went through. I too was deep in debt and without any idea of how to get out of this financial mess.

GRS has a story of how he became free of over $35,000 in debt. By using a "Debt Snowball", starting a budget and changing their lifestyle, J.D. completed what we wanted to do...become debt free!

So, we followed this plan, and found more information through his website. In particular, we found Dave Ramsey. I checked out his book "The Total Money Makeover" at the library(my first library card in years!). I read the whole book in one day and I was "All In"!

From that point on, we had a road map on becoming debt free!

In the next post, I will outline how we started back in February of 2008 on our "Baby Steps". Our goal: Pay off over $55,000 in debt!

We're not there yet, but we are heading in the right direction for sure!


Welcome to My Money Ebb & Flow. I have started this blog because of the nature of money that is continually moving into my life, within my life and out of it....However, now, I am taking control of how "My Money Ebbs & Flows!"

Come join and share with me in our journey for financial freedom by becoming debt free, creating a budget, investing in the future and changing our families for generations to come!