Thursday, 2 May 2013

WHAT'S MY GOAL AGAIN??? ($3737)

I've been neglecting this blog.  It's a good thing I don't have any readers.  I've been spending too much money too.  Ignoring my blog and then checking in to report that I've gone off goal has become a nasty trend!  It hasn't spun completely out of control.  I have two upcoming payments already budgeted after which my balance will be $3737.  It's not bad.  But it's not zero either.

Yesterday I spent $130 on clothes.  I am ashamed to admit the number of shoes I have bought in the past two months.  New workout gear somehow became an urgent necessity in my mind.  I got sucked in by the Gala Fundraiser again and bought a new dress.  Now it's May and this could be a very treacherous month. My birthday is this month and embarrassingly, I've always been the type who celebrates the entire month.  

The highlight of the month most certainly will be the trip to Cuba my husband and I are taking the week of my birthday.  We found a very good deal and I worked for 5 weeks at a part-time job to pay for 85% of it. I'll have to come up with a little extra and will have to try and keep a cool head about me while shopping in all the tourist zones.  

I have two other trips coming up - one home to visit family in June and one this weekend for a memorial service for my Uncle.  I also recently spent nearly $800 visiting him in the hospital - which was worth every penny to have the chance to see him and I'm so happy money didn't get in the way of that.  In fact, my husband paid for it out of some "emergency funds".  

I just did my taxes and because I have a lower paying job now, expected to get money back but ended up owing $160.  Plus I've been in denial about paying back the RRSP's I took out through the first time home buyers plan for the down payment on our apartment two years ago.  If I don't start paying it back, I will be taxed big time so there's a new line in my budget for that one.

It seems never ending sometimes - the many needs and their high price tags.  

I'm considering a part-time job again for July/August.  I can't take on another one at the moment because I am training for a 1/2 marathon and can't conceive of being able to find time for both.  By July it's possible I'll have a raise and a promotion (I've been working so hard towards this!!!) so maybe I'll feel like I can enjoy the summer and think about the part-time job in the fall instead.

I realized that looking at the background of my blog that perhaps zeroing my debt hasn't been my number one goal at all in all these months but saving for Cuba has!!!  I'll leave it up for now - perhaps till after vacation - and when I set some new goals for the summer and fall, I'll find a more appropriate background.  Maybe something like copies of all my statements for savings accounts, my visa, mortgage, RRSP's, RESP's and my tax return (with the personals redacted of course!).  

Till then, as always, WISH ME LUCK!!!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

WAS I BUYING SELF-ESTEEM? ($4783)

I'm celebrating a month of not having bought anything for myself outside of food/drink and toiletries.  I tried to start the "spending detox" on January 1st but had one breakdown - the cute little yellow purse.  After that I started over again and now have a month under my belt.  I still feel the compulsion but it's easier now because I've been strict and have figured out that 99% of the things I want are not things I actually need.

On Valentine's Day I was working out of the office in the morning and on my way in to work I stopped at a mall where I was hoping to find a chocolate shop so I could get a few things to share with my work-mates.  I went through the entrance at the Bay and asked where their food department was and was directed upstairs.  As I came to the top of the escalator and the displays were laid out before me, did I see chocolate?  Nope.  I saw shoes.  The food was behind me and I had to walk past the shoes to get to it.  I was drawn deeper into the display where I noticed a table of black boots and a giant 50% off sign.  I allowed the detour and the next thing you know I'm trying on these fabulous black boots - regular $250 on sale for $65!  Being the 14th of the month, I didn't even have that much in my account to buy them and have stopped carrying my credit card so there was no choice in the matter.  I considered coming back for them the next day but honestly, they weren't that comfortable.  I moved on and found the chocolate I was looking for and went back to work.

Today is now the 16th and with a payday under my belt I have a fresh stack of lunch money and I quickly paid my bills this morning including as much as I possibly could on my visa.  Feels good to be disciplined and even though the stores are selling the boots at slashed prices to make way for the spring fashions, I'm just going to hold out.  Maybe I'll get new boots next year and I'll pay cash.  That would be much better.

This time away from shopping has given me time to think about what's behind it.  Why is shopping such a fantastic distraction and why did I always feel like I needed something new?  I guess I still feel that way a bit but I don't give in to it like I used to.

When I think about how it feels to try on clothes and look in the mirror I can't help but think I am trying to convince myself of something.  I think I've been trying to comfort myself and trying to give myself a self-esteem boost.  When I try on clothes that don't fit well or aren't flattering, that doesn't feel good at all.  But when I find a fabulous dress and some sexy, exciting heels I feel great!  I want to wear the outfit and go to a party and I imagine myself looking and feeling great.

When I don't have something new and I'm getting ready for a party, pulling out something old from my closet just doesn't have the same feeling of excitement.  It's like I'm just the same old me.  But with something new I'm somewhat reinvented.

Do you know how many times I've found myself in a change-room on a day that I planned to be outside getting some exercise?  And how many times have I looked in the mirror and thought to myself that if I wanted to look better I should be going for a run or doing sit-ups rather than trying to find more flattering clothes?  Part of it is just the need for instant gratification - something that applies to so many aspects of my life.  The sit-ups will take months for any effect to be noticeable but a new dress is instant!

I've used shopping for the rush, for entertainment and for the self-esteem boost and have finally decided to examine it for what it is.  It's not so bad you know!  Where I am now I mean.  I know I have some negative thoughts, anxiety, stress, some memories and what have you that I run from and that shopping was a kind of vice that helped distract me.  Not using it doesn't mean that I've dealt with all my issues but I've found other more healthy distractions.  Funny that I say I'm "running" from those problems because actually running is literally one of the new habits I've formed that helps me deal with stress and has become an activity that I love, am proud of and look forward to.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

NEEDS VS WANTS

Crisis averted.  I have purchased a straightening iron, tax included, for under $25.  I tested it and it will do just fine.  It has a pretty tacky design with a skull and spiderweb on it (for those crazy straight Halloween hair-do's?) but who is really going to see it besides me?  I am probably going to think it is really cool in about a day and a half.  

I bought it at Winners and I did not buy anything else and I came right home and I will give my husband the credit card to hide once again in a new spot when he gets home from work.  I feel as though I am back on track.  I am relieved that this worked out and that I didn't start my search in a salon convinced that the only thing that would work would have to cost at least $100.  

The day before it broke down, I started a draft of this post, "Needs Vs Wants", in which I started a brief list of things that I need.  I wanted to make a post out of this where I would analyze each item on the list and ultimately determine that not a single thing on it is actually a real need.

Believe it or not, the damn straightener was on the list!  If I'd put up this post that day, it would have been assessed as a want because my other one was still working.  

Let's see what else was on that list:
  • work denim
  • running shoes
  • grey boots
  • couch
  • dresser
  • sideboard
  • strappy black heels that are comfortable
  • Gala dress
  • art supplies
  • glue gun
30% of this list is footwear!  My runners are two years old and they do say you should replace them at least every birthday and depending on how much you run, even more often.  A member of my running club who is also a marathoner, replaces his every 3-4 months!  Still, I don't think there is any injury being caused by them and I only run about 12-16 km/ week so I can probably tough it out a bit longer.

The other shoes are definitely wants, though any girl will tell you a comfy pair of strappy black heels is a need.  Once again, I will make do with what I have and resume the search for the perfect pair when my debt is paid off.  The other clothing - also wants.  A dress for the Gala - I have something in my closet that no one from work has seen and it will do just fine.  I would love to have something new and just for the occasion but let's face it, I'll be working at the event, not partying and why should I spend hundreds of dollars on a dress for one night that I don't even really get to enjoy.  I didn't even make it into a single photo at last year's event.  

The furniture pieces are all upgrades so again, not needs.  Even the glue gun - I have one but it's just a kind of small dinky one and I'd like one of the super duper heavy duty ones.  The art supplies in general could be considered a need only if the expense were a necessary evil that helped me to actually make some extra income from selling the art.

And there you have it.  I can't think of a single thing that I literally need.

There is another expense that I am struggling with in terms of deciding if it is a need or a want - travel.  I have a series of trips loosely planned for this year.  Are vacations needs?  

My husband and I have not been on a vacation since our honeymoon two years ago and living in Vancouver where it rains all the time and we don't get very much sun makes me feel strongly that I need to go somewhere warm and lovely at least once a year for my mental health!  He doesn't feel the same way.  He would like to do it but could easily sacrifice it.  One of my best friends moved to Florida and it's been nearly a year and we have talked several times about meeting up in Las Vegas for a cheap weekend to see each other again.  Cheap is a relative term of course and while you can get great flight/hotel packages, at minimum, Vegas would still set me back several hundred dollars.  I also have family in another province and usually go home to visit every year.  I rarely skip a year and this year my mom is planning a 90th birthday party for grandpa.  How can I skip that???

Now that I am so focused on paying off my debt, I'm keenly aware that any money I spend while I still have debt is not really my own money.  I can't actually afford anything until my debt is paid off and I have saved the money to do these things.  Won't I enjoy it so much more if it wasn't on credit causing me stress in my life?  

The devil on my shoulder, if that's what he is, says, "Life is short!  Go to Vegas!  Take a holiday!  Celebrate with your family!"  I mean, what's more important?  Staying on track with paying off debt or time spent with loved ones?  When you think about your family or dear friends who you miss, It makes the money seem unimportant but at the same time presents a real dilemma.

It may be that the tropical/Vegas destinations have to wait and are true celebrations for when my debt has disappeared but Grandpa is only going to turn 90 once.  At the very least I have to make that work.

I don't have a snappy, tidy summary for this post!  This is going to be something to ruminate on.  I'm not ready to give up all of my holiday plans yet...

TIPPING POINT

When your budget starts
to affect your crowning glory....
I've been doing so much reading lately about debt and how other people found themselves in a similar situation and how they got out of it.  I've had so many ideas for new posts - I currently have 6 in draft form - and my mind is just racing!

One of the things that I realized yesterday was that when I'm calculating how long it will take me to pay off my visa, I never take the interest into account.  I found several debt calculators online and they all estimated more time than I allowed for to pay off my loan.  I don't know why this hasn't occurred to me until now.  

Yesterday, something awful happened and I need money to deal with the problem.  I think this event may just be my tipping point.  

My straight iron crapped out on me.  

If you knew me, you would know that I'm pretty big on maintaining my hair.  Not just maintaining - that doesn't do it justice.  I have great hair.  I'm not bragging.  It's a fact.  I do.  All my life people have complimented me on my thick, gorgeous hair.  People always say I could have been a Breck girl.  It's long, reddish brown, thick, wavy, layered and I know how to style it.  And style it I do.  Everyday I spend time on my hair and pretty much never leave the house without having styled it unless I am going to the gym or for a run during which I am wearing a baseball hat.  I am not one of those girls who just puts it up in a pony-tail to do the groceries. Uh uh.  

Currently, I am in need of a cut, dye job AND now I need a new straightener and I don't have money in the budget for more than a box of colour from the drug store.  You can't just use any old straightener either.  Around Christmas time I purchased one because mine was on it's last legs, I could tell, but the one I bought did not have ceramic plates and it just dragged through my hair in a bad way and made my hair more frizzy and staticky.  That is not the desired effect.  I decided I would stick it out with my current straightener till it died.  Well, now it has.  A really good one can run from around $100 to as much as $300 and my last one was around $80. That is just not in the budget right now, and I am really pissed off!  When my budget problems start to affect my hair, things are SERIOUS!  This is it! I have had it with this situation!!!

When I went to bed, my mind was swirling with thoughts about part-time jobs, loans, winning the lottery, taking up gambling...  I dreamed I was in a car careening out of control on the highway.  This morning it was the first thing on my mind.  

have an offer from one of the banks I deal with to get an interest free credit card for 10 months. I wondered if I should transfer my balance, pay off the card and then cancel it before the interest skyrockets to 19%.  The problem is, what if I don't manage to pay it off on schedule?  Then I have an even bigger problem than I had before with that high interest.

I decided a loan was the answer and I was really excited!  I could get a loan, pay off the visa, add a little to it so I can visit my family this summer and maybe even afford a cheap vacation package for my birthday!  I would have a zero visa balance and a monthly loan payment less than what I have been paying on my visa and as I pay it off over the next 6 months or so, I would also have a little extra room in my monthly budget because surely I can get a loan payment negotiated that is less than what I pay on my visa each month at the moment!  Fantastic!!!  

I got up and looked on my bank's website for loan information and sadly discovered that the interest rates aren't that much lower than my credit card (9% for the loan, 11% on my card), so very little difference in monthly payment amounts unless I drag it out forever and I really want it dealt with fast.  Brutal.  

So that was disappointing. 

Then I started looking at part time jobs on Charity Village.  I mean, outside of my full-time job, I'm also volunteering right now and I do have more time on my hands than I did with my previous job.  What I should really be doing is getting paid for my work!  Part-time short-term contract positions would be perfect if I could find the right fit.  

I saw a job for the MS Society telerecruiting for events.  Right up my alley.  $15/hr, evenings, 3 nights a week for only 3 weeks.  Perfect.  A few jobs like that and my debt would be paid off a lot faster.  Unfortunately that particular one starts at 4:30 pm and is in Burnaby so there's no way I could do it.

I'm going to keep looking though.  I need a solution!!!  

Whether I revisit the loan idea, and maybe have to make payments for a longer time than I wanted or I start finding extra work, something has to happen right now.  I am at the end of my rope!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

TOP 5 FAVORITE BLOGS

I've been out there surfing for a while now and I wanted to share my top 5 favorite blogs:
  1. The Simple Dollar http://m.thesimpledollar.com/ 
  2. Save Karyn http://www.savekaryn-originalsite.com/
  3. Frugal For Life  http://frugalforlife.blogspot.ca/
  4. Daily Worth  http://dailyworth.com/
  5. Squawk Fox http://www.squawkfox.com/ 
And just because, here's a 6th and I'll tell ya why in a second - 
    6.  Million Dollar Journey http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/

Why #6?  Because wouldn't it be awesome to be blogging about how awesome you are doing bring your net worth up instead of bringing your debt down????  Holy cow.  Dare to dream!  :)

Shout out to "THE SIMPLE DOLLAR"

I found a cool blog and wanted to share it.  http://m.thesimpledollar.com/ I also wrote to the author and though maybe my note to him would make a good post.  So here it is:

Hi Trent!

I'm wondering if you have visited my blog?  I thought only two people looked at my blog - www.debt-free-me@blogspot.ca - and they were the only two friends who I have told about the blog.  But one of them said he hasn't looked at it in a while and I have noticed more than two hits on it.  Sometimes as many as 5!  LOL. 

Anyway, I looked at the spot where it shows sources and I found your blog.  Which I am really enjoying by the way.  I read some posts and your About Me page.  I just wanted to say, whether you've seen my blog or not, I'm glad I found you and it's inspiring to hear success stories like yours.  Not just for the success, but for the understanding.  

I loved how you wrote about feeling like you were in a swamp flowing backwards and it took all of your efforts just to stay in the same spot!  I feel like that too.  I don't have much debt but just enough to make me feel like I'm not doing what I should be doing you know?  Saving more for retirement, paying off our home, saving for emergencies, travelling, and just not feeling pinched all the time.  

Whatever happens, it's a good feeling to at least come to the realization that shopping is a crappy way to deal with stress or whatever the reasons may be.  I feel like I will eventually get a handle on it and maybe I'll figure out other more healthier ways to deal with personal struggles...  Being able to afford a vacation without a credit card would sure be awesome.

All right, have a great day and thanks for being out there!

LESS DEBT MORE BROKE??? ($5171)

Budgeting is making me feel lonely!
When I didn't care how much debt I had, I was having a great time!  I bought whatever I wanted. I went out all the time.  I ordered with no thought of budgeting and enjoyed wines that cost more by the glass than some wines cost by the bottle. When I was bored, I went shopping. I loved it when friends showed off new shoes and couldn't wait to show them mine. I never "ran out of money" because I always had my credit card. Buying things was one of the ways I expressed myself because when you have money you have choice and when you have choices you have the opportunity to define yourself. When all you can ever afford is the cheapest thing on the menu or when you can't shop in certain stores or own certain kinds of things, then you feel inhibited. Well, at least I do.

But more than that, I find I can only afford to commit to a certain number of social engagements and have to chose the ones I do commit to very carefully. When friends spontaneously decide to add on activities or want me to join in on spending choices (like, "Let's all have champagne!") I suddenly feel very anxious. I don't want to be left out but sometimes I know that saying yes means saying no to someone or something the next day. I can't do it all anymore.  

I haven't bought anything (except for the $28 yellow purse!) since January 1st. It's been a month and my focus has been to pay as much on my credit cards as possible - while also not using them. If you are capable of simple math at all, you might have noticed my balance has gone up since my last post. I had to use a co-op car for work and it's automatically billed to my credit card. At least I'll get a mileage cheque in a week or two. It's also my husband's birthday next week. I have spent about $150 on gifts, bought two tickets to a comedy show and have budgeted for valet parking as well. Several months ago I bid on a hotel/dinner package at a fundraiser and have kept it secret waiting for a special occasion so I have that too. It's going to be an awesome weekend!!! I can't wait. Of course, my budget is causing some serious problems for all this celebrating!!!

I bought something that I decided to return because I perhaps overpaid on my visa and am now finding that I won't have enough cash till next payday. I double-checked the fine print on the receipt and it says "exchanges only". Of course (Insert angry expletive here).

That's $70 that I budgeted on getting back and now I don't know how to juggle things over the next two weeks. Plus I  can't decide if I should give him the thing I don't really think he will like or take the store credit. (The voices in my head are shouting, "Store credit!" so that is probably what I will do.)

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when I paid for a group outing expecting that everyone would pay me back at the time of said outing... I'm still owed $90 and I foolishly budgeted with that in mind. So another shortage to deal with... And the credit card is well hidden at my request - only my husband knows where it is.  (The birthday purchases were mostly online. I still have my numbers written down!)

So here I sit at home alone on the weekend (hubby is at work) and I am bored. I am also trying to figure out how I am going to pay for the bare basics this week - bus tickets, food, some birthday activities with my husband, brunch plans with a friend, and the $40 I took out of our household savings last week!

What are my options? Roll the $23 in coins I have? I'll still be short. Beg that store to give me a refund despite their policy? Worth a try I suppose though kinda humiliating. Cancel brunch plans with my friend? Good god, it's the only plan with a friend I budgeted for over the next two weeks!!! Cut back on the plans for my husbands birthday? That sucks. Ask my husband for a loan the week of his birthday? Can you spell L A M E ? Request that he fish the card out of it's secret hiding place for me just this once? I don't want to admit defeat!!! OR make him feel bad about celebrating his birthday.  All my plans were so that he would feel good! Secretly borrow more money out of the household savings fund? That's a slippery slope. I already owe it $40, there's only $300 in there and 1/2 of it was put in there by my husband. Have a sidewalk sale? Find a quick cash job??? Seriously people, I'm scrambling here!!! Of course, I could also ask my friends to pay me back - unfortunately I've already made a deal with them - payback has been delayed due to their own misfortunes... also lame, yes, but that's the deal.

I suppose I can always look for the silver lining here. My options blow chunks but at least I have options. Also, I learned some lessons. Don't buy unless you can get a refund! Don't lend money when you're broke! Don't get carried away making payments on the visa that leave you with not a penny to spare.  

Well, thanks for the pep talk (self). I think I know what I have to do. I'm borrowing from the household savings again (hangs head in shame). It's 2 weeks till payday and I'll  have the money then to pay it back. Life is always a little sweeter on the 15th of the month am I right? Deep breath. All will be well.  :)