Saturday, March 31, 2012

My first credit card

I think my first credit card was a pretty standard thing. I was 19 and a sophomore in college at North Carolina State University. Some VISA guys had a booth set up near the Free Expression Tunnel and were giving away NCSU t-shirts, just for filling out a credit card application.

Man, if I knew then, what I know now...

I signed up, of course, and even used my real name and address. For whatever reason, VISA decided I'd be a good income source and sent me a 3 x 5 piece of plastic with a magnetic strip on the back. Merchants in the bookstore and mall (yeah, I went to the mall then, I was so 1997!) were all too eager to swipe my card, take my free money, and give me stuff I didn't need.

Throughout college I used the card, whether I had money or not (usually I did because I had a great job delivering pizza). I managed to max the card out a few times, but then, the limit was around $1,000 or so. I remember one distinct time when I bought a couple pairs of pants at Abercrombie and Fitch, simply because I had made a credit card payment, and therefore, had the "money" to do so. Ugh, I hate looking back at that.

Each time I got the card maxed out, I'd pay some off and would get a bump in my credit limit. (They must really like me!)

I never missed a payment, though, through the years of college and slightly beyond, the balanced ballooned up to over $3,000. That was enough, and as I got serious with my (future wife) girlfriend, I went to work paying it off. I paid most of it off before I graduated but kept it around, just in case I needed it. My emergency fund, before I knew what that was.

I kept that card, or a different version of it until February 2011 when we performed plastic surgery and got rid of it for good. I've been without a credit card for over a year and with an emergency fund (more on that later) in place, I'm not ever planning on going back.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Who Am I?

I'm a 33, soon to be 34 year old civil engineer with a wife and two kids (both boys). We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a house we bought four years ago (when my wife was working, but very pregnant with our first).

My wife currently stays at home with our boys, as she has for the last four years. In the meantime, she has earned her Masters Degree (cash flowed that) and is now looking for a job as a Librarian. So, we've been on one income for the last several years, and have managed to do ok. I work for State Government, so trust me when I say I don't make a ton of $$$.

But, I've learned some things that have helped us get ahead, if only slightly. And, if we can do it, I think anyone can.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Budget

Really? Really? Think you can achieve personal finance success without one? Think again!

Budget is not a bad word. It's really not. While at face value, it may seem like constraints, a budget is actually a path towards freedom. Telling your money where to go, what to do, is a big shift in thinking over the traditional money telling me where to go, what to do. Or, rather, what I can't do, or where I can't go.

This blog is my attempt to seek enlightenment in the realm of personal finance. I have different goals than some other personal finance bloggers, since my goal isn't to retire early. My goal is simply to manage what resources I have while I work a full, meaningful career.

Topics will deal with budgeting, obviously, but also saving, retirement planning, frugality, and, should I ever learn anything about it, investing. I'm no pro. Heck, I'm a civil engineer, for goodness sakes! But, I do have some understanding of how to get from $0 (or even -$) net worth to somewhere on the plus side.

I welcome any questions and comments.