Middle Class Money

A mostly stay-at-home mom and her husband battle to defeat the debt monster in the face of daily money-hungry dragons.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No one likes to cry poor mouse

We are sitting not pretty, but not ugly financially. By working about 7 hours a week to supplement my husband's full-time job, I am able to stay home with our 13-month old daughter, pay our bills on time, and have such luxuries such as cable internet and cell phones. We have a positive net worth of $113,545. I am turning 30 this month, and DH is 31. Not too bad.

But, we still have a lot of debt: 2 car payments (totalling $21,839), 1 student loan ($16,097), and, of course, the 30-year mortgage ($187,870). And we don't like debt. At all.

So, we try to cut corners. We budget how much we spend each pay period on everything, including fun. Friends will ask us to do things, and we have to say "No" because our fun money has already been spent for that pay period. We hate to say," We don't have any money," because it just sounds bad. If we look around us, we have so much. We either sound cheap, or we sound like we over-extended ourselves. But the main reason I don't like to say we don't have the money is.... the peer pressure! The high-school peer pressure is kickin' in all over again. "We don't have the money right now," just doesn't sound cool.

It all comes down to priorities. And, sadly, prioritizing my friends. I would rather save the money so we can go out with A & B then spend it to go out with C & D. Yuck. And I like them all! I wish I could spend without conscience. Alas, I can not. We must persevere, and I'll toast them all when we retire early and move somewhere that my golf cart is my only method of transportation.

Many of our friends probably think we are just super cheap. Where is that fine line between finanically saavy and just plain old cheap? And how do you say no when people want you to do things you can't afford in your budget?

Finding the perfect credit card

Since DH and I are not big credit card spenders (we don't carry a balance, but they're nice to have if we need them), we have just been using the cards from our local credit union. This has a huge pain-in-the-ass factor, which you probably wouldn't expect since we have accounts at this credit union. The problem is, we buy something, but if you go to pay the credit card, it transfers you to an outside site. Then, the payment shows up in your account, but the payment is not credited to the card for days. Very annoying for people who don't like owing other people money. Plus, the card's website is not super user-friendly and we are only getting 1% cash back. In regards to that 1%, they aren't even showing that on our statement anymore due to a switch in some technology. Who knows what we'll even get back when it's all said and done.

Anyway, I am shopping for a credit card that will 1) give us more cash back and 2) be user friendly. Most of the "big" cards seems to be very user friendly... apply, pay online, redeem points online. However, the rewards things are a little confusing. Some give you "points" for each dollar you spend. But, I can't seem to find out if it takes a whopping 10,000 points to get a mere $10 Olive Garden gift certificate. Guess you already have to be a cardholder to get into that secret rewards vault. Also, a lot of them will give you extra money back if you shop at certain stores, which I do, or buy groceries or gas, which I do. What I generally don't do, is pay for gas groceries, and things at certain stores with credit. Just all part of the don't-buy-things-you-don't-have-the-money-for mentality.

I see several ways to solve this:
  • Develop some snazzy system to track gas and grocery purchases on the credit card and reconcile them with what I pay for with the credit card. If the new card's website posts payments right away, this will be mentally better for me. Then, I get teh extra percentage rewards back Mind you, I already have some pretty involved budget and spending spreadsheets, plus a 13-month old. The head is SPINNING people...is it really worth it???
  • Find a card that gives a percentage cash back from anywhere, similar to my card now, but that is more user friendly. And maybe has a few more fun incentives with it. And offers more than 1% back
  • Stick with my credit union card, and deal with that website drama.
What I think I'm gonna go with is:
  • Get a card that offers the certain store, grocery and gas rewards at 2%, and all others at 1%. Don't change any spending habits (i.e. keep using cash/debit to pay for gas adn groceries). Just get the same percentage I'm getting now at the credit union, but have a user-friendly website and, if I happen to use the card for gas or groceries, extra bonus. Maybe I can add just one more spreadsheet...
Any thoughts on a higher cash back rewards card from anywhere? I've been looking at www.creditcards.com to compare, but they all start to seem the same...