19 April 2014

It wouldn't be a challenge without some setbacks

So just as soon as I kicked off this last push to be debt free and mailed off those tax payments that were weighing so heavily on me, two doozy-sized setbacks happened- my 16 year old cat became ill and needed nearly $1000 worth of treatment, and the transmission in my 2002 minivan let go and the cost to repair it vastly exceeded what it was worth (it's got 180,000 miles on it).

Excuse my french but well, shit.

After a not-insignificant amount of worry and self-pity, I realized something- this is exactly why I'm doing this. So when my cat is sick, I CAN take her to the vet. When my car dies, I CAN go buy a new one. So setbacks don't actually set me back.

In the meanwhile, I'll be driving my sister's car (she moved abroad). I'm hoping my cat improves, but she's 16 and at least I know I did right for her. And we'll keep soldering on.

11 April 2014

Big, Huge, Mammoth Relief

Last year, I made the tough decision to withdraw the funds from an old IRA and pay off the vast majority of my credit card debt. I did this for a few reasons- I have another, much larger retirement account with my current position, I was not making progress with my debt payoff since I stopped receiving child support, and I carried a lot of emotional baggage associated with that debt that I just wanted to be rid of.

I talked to a few friends who are in finance, did a lot of research, slept on it, and talked to my mom. Then I pulled the trigger.

I knew I would have to pay taxes on those funds, and also a 10% penalty for withdrawing the money before 59 1/2. And today, I did my taxes. Thankfully, I owe just about what I thought I would owe. I can afford to pay it.

It's done. I have been chipping away at this debt for nearly 7 years, and yet today was a big victory. What a relief.

08 April 2014

Banish the to-do list

Lately I've been trying out a new habit- not using a to do list. And I'm getting more done than ever!

Let me explain.

Throughout the day, a million little tasks are thrown at you. Beyond that, there are inevitably things you need to follow up on, do something about, or otherwise review. For example, if you attend a meeting at work, you need to type minutes, take care of tasks that arose during the meeting, follow up with people you need to speak with. I used to add these tasks to my to do list- if I thought of it or had time before my next thing. They would get put in the queue, and sometimes that was it. Especially if it was something that I didn't want to do- I'd wait, then the next day I'd put it off, and so on... until the thing was so overdue or long over that I was too embarrassed to resurrect it. It was the tell-tale heart of professional tasks.

That, or I simply forgot what happened. Why did I need to call Carrie re: website? What was "list coll exp"?

Not only that, but I spent time every day rereading these to do lists, thinking about them, and not acting on them. Talk about a supreme waste of my time!

So, I got rid of my to do list.

Okay, not fully, but the habit has become to deal with it (whatever it is) immediately. Think about it once, do it once, move on. Things that can't be done immediately don't get looked at until I can, like non urgent emails. Deal with it, delete it, and move on.

I know that this is probably obvious to some, but it wasn't to me, so I thought I'd put it out there. What do you think?

30 March 2014

10 Things You Can Do With Your Money When You Don't Have Credit Card Debt

  1. Budget and save for irregular expenses instead of scrambling to pay for them. (I'm planning on using Capital One 360- was ING- to open multiple accounts to use for savings goals)
  2. Make substantial payments to student loans and actually pay them OFF (that seemed unrealistic before)
  3. Save up for and put a downpayment on a new (to me) car
  4. Go on a real vacation
  5. Review insurance (life, auto, home) and ensure coverage is adequate
  6. Increase retirement savings
  7. Increase college savings
  8. Use credit cards wisely to earn miles and free nights at hotels (I'll be shopping for a new card when I'm done paying off the two I still have)
  9. Teach children about finances and how not to repeat your mistakes
  10. Know that you will never go down the road of debt again.
These are the things that have been keeping me going. What will you do when you're free?

28 March 2014

The little white lie that will help you get rid of your debt

Yesterday a colleague called and asked me if I wanted to take our boss out for lunch for her birthday. Of course I did, but I just felt like I couldn't say yes because of the cost. I immediately went down this rabbit hole of- it's not her fault I'm in debt- taking her out is the right thing to do- it's so shameful that I am in the position- everything sucks- I hate my life.

Luckily, I had to talk to one of my team for another reason, and this person happens to be a total frugalista (I've actually written about her before). I told her the whole story, and she gave me some great advice: to simply say, "I am saving for a new car right now and can't spend extra money, but I'd love to meet up for a brown bag lunch."

It's not exactly a lie, I do plan on getting a new car when I'm done paying off debt, but it does the trick. People feel shame and guilt about debt, but pride in the ability to be strong and save up for things instead of charging them.

So if you're in major debt payoff mode and you don't need the world to know that, just focus on the word saving- the little white lie that will help you get rid of your debt.

Thanks, E.

26 March 2014

The thing I didn't think I cared about

I've been really sticking to my no spending budget, with the exception of things I had previously committed to (like going to see Book of Mormon last night- hilarious!). I've gone days without spending an unbudgeted penny. I've packed my lunches, brought my coffee, and avoided situations where I might be tempted to shop. But the one thing I didn't anticipate is how much I would miss going out to eat!

I don't think of myself as someone who likes to go out to eat. It doesn't FEEL like we do it often. And yet, now that we're not doing it at all, I'm struck with how many times a day I find myself thinking of fun things that I could do with friends or the kids that revolve around eating something somewhere. I think, "we can go to the great bagel place!" or "maybe a trip to Carvel this weekend!" and then think, "oh, nope."

Looking at my Quicken reports (our finance person at work called me an "accounting rockstar"- I was a little too excited to receive that compliment!), I see that the numbers prove this affection for restaurants. Who knew?

In the meanwhile, we cook. I have made homemade donuts, shrimp scampi, and a LOT of lunches. We'll get used to it... I hope.

23 March 2014

Cancel those emails

Today's frugal living tip: Don't tempt yourself with email coupons and catalogs

One of the first things I'm doing to make sure I meet my goal of paying off my last two credit cards is committing to not spending. We basically have everything we need to get through the summer, and if not, I'll deal with that when it comes up.

To that point, I am unsubscribing from every email list and catalog I get. $20 for a $60 Banana Republic shirt is still $20, and I just don't want to be tempted. I just recycled the Toms catalog without even looking at it- a little painful, but worth it.

The only exception is the J Crew catalog, because I like it for ideas. I'd never order anything from there anyway (is it me, or is their pricing insane now?)